Tory MPs demand 500,000 new homes built on the north after HS2 snub

A group of Conservative MPs representing the North of England has set out a manifesto calling for a dedicated Cabinet minister for the region and 500,000 homes to be built.

The Northern Research Group (NRG) also wants to see a commitment to devolving some of Westminster’s tax responsibilities to the North and the prioritisation of a rail line linking Liverpool in the west to Hull in the east.

It comes as ministers have recently refused to commit to building the northern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester, via Crewe, over cost concerns associated with the high-speed rail project.

Tory MPs are also calling for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to rule out raising the overall tax burden.

The demands form part of the NRG’s Manifesto For The North, which it plans to publish on Monday during the Tory Party conference in Manchester.

Chairman John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, said his group wanted to see the eight pledges in the document, ranging from more devolved powers to expanding energy initiatives such as carbon capture, adopted by the Prime Minister ahead of next year’s likely election in order to bring about a “revitalised North”.

The Tory landslide general election win in 2019 saw Boris Johnson elected to Downing Street on the back of victories in so-called Red Wall seats – constituencies in Labour’s traditional heartlands of the North and the Midlands.

With wins for Labour in recent Red Wall by-election contests, the Tories face a tough battle to hold on to their gains in the North, while also battling a resurgent Liberal Democrat party in the South of England.

Mr Stevenson said: “With the North acting as kingmakers for the next election, the Government must listen to northern voices.

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“Our manifesto addresses this, presenting tangible steps that ensure the North’s vast potential is not just acknowledged but actively harnessed.”

The NRG demand on ruling out tax hikes comes after experts calculated that the Tories will have presided over, during the time between the 2019 election and the next general election, the biggest set of tax rises since at least the Second World War.

Analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank said taxes will have risen to around 37% of national income, equivalent to around £3,500 more per household if it was shared out equally.

A number of those in the NRG have published commitments saying they will not vote for tax rises in the autumn statement in November, a move backed by former prime minister Liz Truss.

Sir Jake Berry, a member of the NRG and Tory chairman during Ms Truss’s short-lived stint in No 10, said: “It is not right that the tax burden keeps increasing.

“This is not the fault of any one government but the political system that believes you can tax your way to growth. You cannot.

“This is why we as MPs, whose job it is to vote over whether tax should go up or down, are making a stand to make it clear that we will not vote for further tax rises that increase the tax burden.

“I believe in my constituents and their ability to spend their own money.”

Other suggestions put forward in the NRG manifesto include providing more funding for the North, including for education, nominating a secretary of state for the North and establishing a Commons committee for the region.

It also pushes for the decarbonisation of existing housing stock despite Mr Sunak using a speech last week to row back on net zero pledges, including providing an exemption for about a fifth of homes on rules around removing gas boilers and cancelling the requirement for landlords to improve the energy efficiency of tenants’ homes.

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