Rishi Sunak again refuses to commit to HS2 link and says councils can implement speed limit

From tax cuts, to HS2 and inflation, ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on the key issues Rishi Sunak faces at the Tory Party Conference

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has again refused to confirm whether the high speed rail link from London will reach Manchester in an interview quizzing the prime minister on his commitments to views on HS2, net-zero targets and 20mph speed limits.

Asked about the subject by the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Sunak said on Sunday that there are "spades in the ground" and that he "won't commit to any further speculation".

There has been much media speculation the prime minister is considering axing the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 due to spiralling costs.

The prime minister also rejected comments made by Conservative mayor of Birmingham Andy Street's saying that Mr Sunak not committing is making Britain look like a "laughing stock".

In response, Mr Sunak said: "I reject that".

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The prime minister also stopped short of saying he would stop local councils from enforcing 20mph speed limits despite describing the rule recently been implemented across Wales as a "war on motorists".

He indicated that councils will still be able to implement 20mph zones for drivers if they have local consent and follow government guidance.

“What this is about is making sure that the statutory guidance that goes to local councils from Government is clear about making sure that councils – which are obviously in charge of what’s happening in their local areas – are doing things with the support and consent of their local communities, taking into account the needs of their communities, and not imposing things on them without their consent and say so," he said.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper will set out the details in his speech to the Tory conference, Mr Sunak added.

Talking about his recent decision to cut back measures to reach net-zero, the prime minister said that prioritising working people was the "decision I've made".

He was challenged about comments from Iceland boss Richard Walker, who claimed the Tories are “drifting out of touch” with the needs of business, the environment and “everyday people”.

Mr Sunak said: “Change may be uncomfortable for people. People may be critical of it, but I believe on doing the right thing for the country.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and wife Akshata Murty arriving in Manchester on the eve of the Conservative Party Conference. Credit: PA

“I’m not going to shy away from that. If I believe the right thing to do is to chart a new course for net zero that will save ordinary families £5,000, £10,000, £15,000, £20,000, I’m going to do it."

The prime minster criticised the £12.50 daily charge on drivers whose vehicles fail to qualify by ULEZ standards as "ordinary people are forced to pay 12.50 just to take their children to school".

"All these things don't strike me as right for this country."

Rishi Sunak insisted the biggest “tax cut” he could give would be to meet his goal of halving inflation.

“I’m a Conservative, of course I want to cut taxes. The best tax cut that I can deliver for the British people right now is to halve inflation.”