Policy watch: What Liz Truss will do on the key issues facing Britain

·7 min read
Liz Truss has won over Tory members but needs to move quickly to introduce her new policy vision - AFP
Liz Truss has won over Tory members but needs to move quickly to introduce her new policy vision - AFP

Liz Truss has won the keys to No 10 after wooing Tory members with an ambitious and high-spending plan for government.

The Foreign Secretary, who triumphed over Rishi Sunak in the race for Downing Street, has put tax cuts and big infrastructure pledges at the heart of her campaign.

But with the economy heading into a downturn and just two years until the next election, she faces a race against time to deliver on her wide-ranging agenda.

After two months of gruelling leadership hustings, here is what she has promised on the main issues facing the country.

Energy crisis

Liz Truss is considering freezing energy bills for millions of households this winter if she wins the Conservative Party leadership race, the Telegraph understands.

Campaign sources familiar with discussions, and energy company insiders who have been consulted, have said that a freeze of some form is now expected.

In an interview on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg on Sept 4, Ms Truss moved to reassure the public that help was coming if she became prime minister, vowing to reveal a support package within a week.

The Foreign Secretary said the rise in energy bills did not have to mean “Armageddon” this winter and declined to rule out a bills freeze for some households.

Annual energy bills for the average household are set to jump from £1,971 to £3,549 from this October when the change in the price cap kicks in.

Taxes

Ms Truss is drawing up Thatcherite plans to give No 10 more control over the economy, The Telegraph understands. The Foreign Secretary has announced £30billion worth of tax cuts and would start to implement them “from day one”.

She is considering cutting income tax and VAT, with the plans labelled “regressive” by Mr Sunak’s campaign. She also plans to slash business rates to help small companies.

She would reverse the National Insurance rise that came into force in April and lift green levies on energy bills for two years. She has also said she would review inheritance tax as part of a general review of the tax system.

She argued her tax cuts, including scrapping the corporation tax rise and reversing the National Insurance increase, would help avert the downturn and prevent a recession. Ms Truss could also pull the UK out of a deal agreed by Mr Sunak to “stitch-up” global corporation tax rates at 15 per cent.

She vowed on Aug 23 to divert billions of pounds from the NHS into social care to free up space in hospitals. She wants to see the £13billion a year earmarked for the NHS from the National Insurance rise diverted to local authorities to pay for older people’s care as soon as possible.

Borrowing

The new Prime Minister has said that she plans to pay for tax cuts by putting the Covid debt on a “longer-term footing”, akin to the nation’s war debt from the 1940s. That would potentially involve refinancing the £311billion borrowed during the pandemic so that it was paid back over a much longer period.

Net Zero

Ms Truss backs the target overall but has said “we need to reach net zero in a way that doesn’t harm businesses or consumers”. She is “very supportive of using gas as a transition fuel” and has suggested she would end the ban on fracking so it could go ahead in areas where there is local consent.

Ms Truss also plans to ramp up drilling for gas and oil in the North Sea to meet Britain’s medium-term energy needs. At the Cardiff hustings, she said she was an “environmentalist before it was fashionable”.

Transgender issues

The Foreign Secretary has hit out at “ludicrous debates about pronouns” and as equalities minister scrapped plans to reform the law so people could change gender without a medical diagnosis. At a hustings on Aug  25, when asked if a trans woman was a woman, she answered “no”.

Brexit

She vociferously supported Remain during the 2016 referendum but has since transformed herself into one of the most steadfast Brexiteers in the Government. She has driven forward plans to override the Northern Ireland Protocol and has said she now regrets voting to stay in the EU.

When challenged by Mr Sunak during a TV debate over why she voted Remain, she said: “Maybe I’ve learnt from that.” On August 17, she said the current version of the Northern Ireland Protocol was undermining the UK. She said that she was not prepared to “let the situation drift”.

Scotland

Ms Truss has pledged that there will be no second referendum on Scottish independence “on my watch”, as she vowed to strengthen and defend the Union. She vowed at the hustings on August 16 in Perth to work closely with Douglas Ross and his team at Holyrood to call out SNP shortcomings in office.

Foreign workers

Ms Truss has proposed allowing thousands more foreign workers to come into UK each year to temporarily take up agricultural jobs such as picking fruit. She wants a “short-term expansion” to what is known as the seasonal workers scheme.

Defence

The new Prime Minister has described herself as a “freedom fighter” on Ukraine, telling Conservative Party members they could trust her to do all she could to ensure Vladimir Putin was defeated. Ms Truss would increase spending on the military to three per cent of GDP by the end of this decade and “review” the plan to cut the size of the Army to 72,500.

She has said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows the West has not dedicated enough funding to defence. Ms Truss has also unveiled plans to boost trade between Commonwealth nations and stop China from buying up influence in developing countries.

Housing

The Foreign Secretary has pledged to rip up “Stalinist” housing targets and would make it quicker and easier for developers to build on brownfield land in “opportunity areas”. She has said the UK needs to “build up more” in cities and “it’s very important that we have policies that have local consent”.

Immigration

She “completely agrees” with the Rwanda policy and says “we need to have further reforms in the UK to make sure we can really stop illegal immigration”. She has said she wants to see change to the way ECHR rulings are applied in Britain but “would be prepared” to withdraw from it if necessary.

Ms Truss also vowed on August 16 to keep the Royal Navy in charge of patrolling the Channel to combat illegal migrants after it was revealed that it planned to withdraw from the role next year.

Education

Ms Truss has pledged to give all students who receive three A*s at A-level an automatic Oxbridge interview. She said that Oxford and Cambridge should give all top students a chance for a place, as she warned some teachers discouraged applications because the universities were “full of toffs”.

She also suggested she supported delaying university admissions until after students had received their exam results, abandoning the system of applications based on predicted grades.

Strikes

The Foreign Secretary has vowed to take “tough and decisive action” to stop militant trade unions grinding Britain to a halt with strikes this winter. Within a month of taking office, she plans to table new laws that will introduce minimum service levels on trains, buses and other critical services. Ms Truss also plans to raise ballot thresholds, making it harder to coordinate widespread strikes, and would legislate for cooling off periods so unions can no longer walk out as many times as they like within six months of their members backing industrial action.

Transport

Ms Truss has committed to ending the “failed experiment” of smart motorways and has said she is “prepared to look at” ditching mandatory speed limits on highways.

She has also pledged to plough money into a series of high-profile infrastructure projects, most notably reversing the decision to scrap Northern Powerhouse Rail, a planned high speed link from Liverpool to Hull, via Manchester and Leeds, which would cost some £39 billion.