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Truss vs Sunak: Where do the Tory leadership contenders stand on policy?

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The fierce rivals vying to be the next prime minister have continued to add to their pledge packets, with fresh promises on tax, education and identity politics.

Over the summer it will be up to Tory party members to decide which of the two will take over from Boris Johnson as Conservative leader.

The pair have embarked on a programme of 12 official hustings, where they are seeking to woo voters in the race for No 10.

Here we look at their stances on key issues.

Conservative leadership bid
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss taking part in Britain’s Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate (Jonathan Hordle/ITV/PA)

– Tax and spending

Rishi Sunak: The former chancellor has pitched himself as the fiscally conservative candidate and has criticised his rival’s tax-cutting plans as “comforting fairytales”.

He has promised to “deliver tax cuts that drive growth”, but to do so in a “way that’s responsible”, while branding plans by Ms Truss as “morally wrong” for passing debt on to the next generation.

As he battled to make up ground on the Foreign Secretary, he pledged to temporarily scrap VAT on energy bills from October if the price cap rises above £3,000 as expected, saving households around £160 at a cost to the Exchequer of around £4.3 billion.

And in a last-ditch effort to win over the party faithful before they started voting, Mr Sunak promised the “biggest income tax cut since Margaret Thatcher’s government”.

He vowed to take 4p off income tax within seven years if he becomes prime minister.

Cutting the basic rate from 20p in the pound to 16p would amount to a 20% tax reduction, the largest cut to income tax in 30 years.

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 said she would “simplify” taxes and ensure people are not penalised for caring for children or relatives.

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

She has committed to spreading the country’s Covid debt over a longer period of time, while insisting curbing taxes will boost growth.

Ms Truss has also unveiled plans to turn brownfield sites and other locations into “investment zones”, dubbed “full-fat freeports”.

– Immigration

Migrant Crisis
Protesters campaigning against plans to send migrants to Rwanda (Victoria Jones/PA)

Rishi Sunak: Has re-iterated his support for the Government’s controversial Rwanda asylum policy, saying he would do “whatever it takes” to get it up and running.

He has also unveiled a 10-point plan that includes the promise of a narrower definition of who qualifies for asylum compared with that offered by the European Convention on Human Rights, with enhanced powers to detain, tag and monitor illegal migrants.

He promised to give Parliament control over who comes to the UK by creating an annual cap on the number of refugees accepted each year, albeit one that can be changed in the case of sudden emergencies.

Liz Truss: Also supports the Rwanda policy and has said that under her leadership it could be extended further, with partnerships with more countries and further return and resettlement agreements.

She has also said she will increase Border Force staff levels from 9,000 to 10,800 and double the Border Force Maritime staffing levels, while also bringing forward a strengthened UK Bill of Rights to provide a “sound legal basis” to tackle illegal migration.

– Identity politics

Rishi Sunak: Pledged a “manifesto for women’s rights”, 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.

He has also vowed to review the 2010 Equality Act to stop the “woke nonsense” it has allowed to “permeate public life”.

He wants to preserve gendered words such as “woman” or “mother” by ensuring sex means biological sex in the legislation, and clarify that gender self-identification does not have legal force.

He promised to protect free speech by amending the Public Sector Equality Duty, which requires public bodies to consider discrimination.

This would be to ensure organisations “are open and welcoming” to people with differing political opinions and religious and philosophical world views, “putting a stop to practices such as no-platforming”, his campaign said.

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.

But she has also spoken out in favour of single-sex spaces, telling a Tory party hustings audience that she backs a policy that guarantees schoolgirls can go to a toilet in a safe environment.

– Brexit and Europe

Vote Remain and Vote Leave signs on a lamp post in Leeds
Vote Remain and Vote Leave signs on a lamp post in Leeds (Danny Lawson/PA)

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.

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

She has vowed to review all EU laws retained after Brexit by the end of next year in a “red tape bonfire” if she becomes prime minister, and to scrap or replace those that are deemed to hinder UK growth.

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

She has vowed to replace EU law that restricts the development of farming infrastructure and technology, including agricultural drone use and precision breeding technologies.

She also promised to tackle the labour shortages in farming, partly caused by post-Brexit freedom of movement restrictions, with a short-term expansion to the seasonal workers scheme.

– Law and order

Rishi Sunak: Criminals who refuse to attend court for their sentencing would face longer terms behind bars, said Mr Sunak.

Police would be ordered to take tougher action to tackle “grooming gangs” and officers “must be fully focused on fighting actual crime in people’s neighbourhoods, and not policing bad jokes on Twitter”.

He has also pledged to expand police powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, and crack down on graffiti and littering.

Liz Truss: Would order police to go “back to basics” and cut homicide, serious violence and neighbourhood crime by 20% by 2024 rather than investigating “Twitter rows and hurt feelings”, with league tables showing forces’ performances.

– Defence 

British soldiers on manoeuvres in the Tapa central military training area in Estonia during a Nato exercise
British soldiers on manoeuvres in the Tapa central military training area in Estonia during a Nato exercise (Ben Birchall/PA)

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”.

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

– NHS

Rishi Sunak: Has promised a “vaccines-style” taskforce to tackle NHS backlogs, calling dealing with the issue one of his top priorities.

He has plans to expand the network of specialist surgical centres and community diagnostics hubs in order to eliminate one-year NHS waiting times six months earlier than planned by September 2024, and to get overall numbers falling by next year.

Liz Truss: Agrees on the urgent need to deal with care backlogs, promising to she install a “strong” health secretary to solve the issue.

She has also said she is “completely committed” to current Government promises for NHS spending, despite her plans for tax cuts.

– 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.

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.

– Foreign affairs

Rishi Sunak: Has promised to close all 30 of Beijing’s Confucius Institutes in the UK and “kick the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) out of our universities”, declaring China “the biggest-long term threat to Britain”.

Liz Truss: “Helped lead the international response to increased Chinese aggression” as Foreign Secretary and “this will only continue when she becomes prime minister”, her campaign says.

– 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.

He has also pledged to slash the number of empty shops on Britain’s high streets by removing hurdles for those properties to be quickly converted into new businesses or cafes.

He would seek to reduce regulations around farmers’ markets, make local authorities assess social value when considering the location of public services, and protect access to cash points.

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

– Education

Rishi Sunak: Said he backs the “return” of grammar schools, which initially prompted questions over whether he wants to overturn the ban on new institutions imposed by Labour more than 20 years ago.

However, it is understood he supports the expansion of existing grammar schools in local areas.

Liz Truss: Has pitched herself as the “education prime minister” with a six-point plan that includes replacing failing academies with “a new wave of free schools” and improving maths and literacy standards.

She has said she would end the ban on new grammar schools.