Home secretary Sajid Javid has unveiled plans to borrow £100bn to reboot the economy as he became the latest Tory leadership hopeful to set out his stall in the contest to replace Theresa May.
Javid’s national investment fund sits alongside proposals to slash the top 45p rate of income tax for top earners.
The national infrastructure fund would be drawn from low government borrowing rates and would be used to invest in critical infrastructure projects in the north, including improved rail links.
It would also help accelerate the rollout of a national fibre optic network to improve Britain’s broadband speed, which lags behind the likes of the US, Germany and France.
The fund would be run arms-length from government through a board of experts appointed by ministers. It could eventually become an extension of the National Infrastructure Commission, a government department that provides advice on Britain’s infrastructure challenges.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group, said there were “real risks” attached to the proposal.
“It's all well and good to hope for a return on investment and utilising low interest rates, yet neither of these two can be guaranteed,” he said. “The arms-length nature of it also raises questions about accountability.
“Instead, HS2 should be scrapped immediately, with some of that cash used to improve infrastructure outside of London.”
The weekend has been dominated by Tory leadership candidates setting out their visions for Brexit and beyond.
Those angling to replace May as Prime Minister clashed over their stances on a no-deal Brexit. Javid said he would prepare for no deal but also refused to rule out a future extension to Article 50 – the mechanism that allows the UK to leave the EU – under any circumstances.
Andrea Leadsom, the former leader of the House of Commons, said she was seeking a “managed exit” from the EU, in which she would pass legislation to prepare for leaving without a deal.
Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock, a Remainer in the Cabinet, vowed to rule out leaving the EU without a deal, saying it was “not a policy option available to the next Prime Minister, whether they like it or not”.
Yesterday former minister Sam Gyimah became the 13th Tory to enter the race to succeed May.