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Six of the best from the Tory conference

by Charlie Mitchell | 06.10.2016

The Conservative Party conference in Birmingham added much-needed flesh to the bones of policies on Brexit, migration, health and the economy. But Brexiteers Liam Fox and David Davis couldn’t help but exasperate onlookers.

1. Amber Rudd, the home secretary, crowned a forceful conference speech with a series of immigration policies. She called for companies to publish lists of their foreign employees. Rudd also proposed a 100,00 cap on net annual immigration and limiting the number of students on “low-quality courses”. Businesses should change their recruitment procedures so that immigrants are less likely to go on “taking jobs British people could do”. In addition, Rudd laid out plans for a “Controlling Migrant Fund”, thereby adopting a policy which originated with Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, and was recently taken up by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. The fund will provide £140 million to local councils to hep offset the pressures migrants can place on communities.”

2. Chancellor Philip Hammond, whose attempts to prevent a hard Brexit appear to have failed, abandoned George Osborne’s manifesto pledge to eliminate the budget deficit by 2020. As the pound dropped to a 31-year low against the dollar, Hammond admitted that Brexit “turbulence” would put business confidence on a “bit of a rollercoaster”. But his more flexible economic policy – which will prioritise spending on homes and transport – was well received by leading business organisation the CBI. This followed pledges from Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, to borrow £2 billion for the construction of a million new homes by 2020.

3. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, courted controversy with a vow to make the NHS “self sufficient” in doctors after Brexit. He promised to reduce the reliance on foreign-trained doctors by offering 1,500 extra places annually in British medical schools. While the British Medical Association and other health organisations welcomed Hunt’s acknowledgement that the NHS needed more doctors, they warned that the extra places, the first of which will become available in 2018-19, would not provide new doctors for a decade.

4. At a fringe event, Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, described EU nationals living in the UK as “one of our main cards” in the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, thereby refusing to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living here, who number approximately 3.2 million according to a House of Commons briefing paper published in September. EU citizens residing here. Fox was attacked for his loose language. Chuka Umunna, a prominent Labour politician, said he “needs to understand that he is talking about people not poker chips”. Fellow Brexiteer David Davis subsequently reassured EU citizens that they’ll be able to stay in the UK at a Spectator fringe event, becoming the first senior minister to do so.

5. Davis, the Brexit secretary, acknowledged that politicians had deployed “untruths” during the referendum campaign. But he maintained they didn’t affect the result. He said that claims that could not be “repeated on oath” were a feature of general elections. In addition, he dismissed the idea that he, Liam Fox and Boris Johnson – the “three blind mice” of the leave campaign, as former tory minister Nick Herbert called them on Sunday – would be responsible if Brexit is a failure. “If it goes wrong, the whole government will be blamed”, he said.

6. In her speech concluding the conference, Theresa May called Brexit a “once-in-a-generation chance to change the country for good”. She reiterated her intention to trigger Article 50 “no later than the end of March”, introduce a Great Repeal Bill to jettison the European Communities Act 1972 and control immigration. The prime minister also said that openness during Brexit negotiations isn’t “in our national interest”.

This piece was corrected after publication. An earlier version had stated that 2 million EU citizens lived in the UK and had described the Controlling Migrant Fund as an “annexation of a Corbyn policy”. 

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Edited by Michael Prest

2 Responses to “Six of the best from the Tory conference”

  • It seems May is more interested in preventing a Tory party split than looking after the economic interests of the nation and working alongside our European friends and neighbours. I despair at the antics of these idiots.

  • “She called for companies to publish lists of their foreign employees”

    I don’t think that is correct. She did not ‘call for’ anything like this in her speech.

    There was a suggestion in the briefing on her speech that the consultation she announced might include a proposal for companies to report the nationality of their employees.

    It was not clear whether the proposal was for companies to have to provide “lists” of individual employees or whether they would just have to report the proportions of UK and non-UK nationals.