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What do the candidates to be the next prime minister say on policy?

Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are still in the race to replace Boris Johnson.

20 July 2022

The Westminster stage of the Tory leadership contest is drawing to a close, with MPs due to cast their final ballots to decide which two contenders they will put forward to party members waiting to choose the UK’s next prime minister.

Three candidates are battling it out to win a place in the run-off.

Frontrunner Rishi Sunak, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and trade minister Penny Mordaunt have clashed over policy in their bid to secure the top job.

Here we look at their stances on key issues.

– Tax and Spending

Rishi Sunak: The former chancellor has pitched himself as the fiscally conservative candidate and criticised his rivals’ plans to raise borrowing to pay for tax cuts as “comforting fairy tales”.

He has promised to “deliver tax cuts that drive growth”, but to do so in a “way that’s responsible” and only “after we’ve got a grip of inflation”.

Penny Mordaunt: The trade minister has pledged to cut VAT on fuel in half – from 20% to 10% – and raise income tax thresholds for basic and middle earners in line with inflation. But she insists she will maintain control of public finances.

She also wants to give MPs “social capital pots” – cash to spend in their constituencies.

Liz Truss: The Foreign Secretary has pledged to “start cutting taxes from day one” with a new Budget and Spending Review that would reverse April’s rise in national insurance and next year’s corporation tax hike from 19% to 25%.

She has vowed to “simplify” taxes and ensure people are not penalised for caring for children or relatives.

She has not explained how she would pay for the £30 billion in tax cuts she has promised, but insists they “can be paid for within the existing fiscal envelope”.

– Immigration 

Rishi Sunak: Supports the current Government’s controversial Rwanda asylum policy, saying it will stop “an illegal set of criminal gangs who were causing people to die in pursuit of coming here”.

Penny Mordaunt: Also backs the plan to deport some asylum seekers to Rwanda, saying: “I will crack down on the evil and barbaric smugglers that exploit vulnerable people to cross the channel illegally.”

Liz Truss: Also supports the policy and said she has worked closely with the Home Secretary on it.

– Identity Politics

Rishi Sunak: Has criticised “trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender-neutral language”. He has pledged a “manifesto for women’s right”, including opposing biological men being allowed to compete against women in sport and guidance for schools on how they teach issues of sex and gender.

Penny Mordaunt: Said: “It was Margaret Thatcher who said, ‘Every prime minister needs a Willie’. A woman like me doesn’t have one.”

Liz Truss: Has previously shelved plans for an overhaul of gender recognition rules to make it easier for trans people to change their legal gender.

– Brexit and Europe

Rishi Sunak: The Leave-voter has promised to scrap or reform all EU law or bureaucracy still on the statute book by the time of the next general election, and have initial recommendations on whether each law stays or goes within 100 days.

Penny Mordaunt: The ardent Leaver has stood by her claim made during the 2016 referendum campaign that the UK would not be able to stop Turkey joining the EU, for which she faced accusations of untruths.

Liz Truss: Voted Remain but has since embraced Brexit and scooped up the backing of staunch Brexiteers. Helped push through the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which critics say breaks international law.

Reportedly said she would seek to reform the European Convention on Human Rights but would be “prepared to leave”.

– Defence 

Rishi Sunak: Views the Nato target of 2% of GDP as a “floor and not a ceiling” and notes it is set to rise to 2.5% “over time” but refuses to set “arbitrary targets”.

Penny Mordaunt: Stands by the manifesto commitment to the Nato target and to increase spending by 0.5% above inflation every year. She would also create a civil defence force to supplement the military.

Liz Truss: Has pledged to increase defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030 and strengthen the intelligence services. She said the Government’s current plan to cut the size of the Army to 72,500 in 2025 is “up for review”.

– Climate Change and Net Zero

Rishi Sunak: Committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2050. He has pledged to keep the ban on building new onshore wind farms, but wants to introduce a legal target to make Britain energy self-sufficient by 2045 by overseeing a massive expansion in offshore turbines.

Penny Mordaunt: Committed to the net zero target, but said “it mustn’t clobber people” and must support levelling up, national resilience and security.

She wants to increase investment in marine renewable energy and ensure half of new nuclear and hydrogen capacity is built in the North.

Liz Truss: Backs the net zero push, but would pause green levies on domestic energy bills, which could damage the target.

She says there is a strong case for lifting the ban on fracking and wants to move away from the EU’s habitat directive in favour of a stronger British biodiversity target.

– Housing and Infrastructure

Rishi Sunak: Has vowed to improve housing stock and energy efficiency. He wants to scrap EU Solvency II rules to help investors put money into infrastructure assets.

Penny Mordaunt: She would ditch housing targets, saying they have been “tested to destruction”. She wants to “champion a brownfield building boom”.

Liz Truss: Would scrap what she calls “Stalinist” housing targets in favour of tax cuts and deregulation.

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