Hunt backs Sizewell C and East West Rail; pledges energy efficiency taskforce

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has unveiled new measures designed to boost growth, with infrastructure acting as a key priority as he looks to bring a level of calm to the economy.

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Hunt confirmed that the UK is already in recession and will see growth shrink by 1.4% in 2023. Setting out his plans in the Autumn Statement, he said the government would focus on three priorities: stability, growth and public services.

Within the government’s growth priority, the chancellor said he would target energy, infrastructure and innovation.

As part of this, he confirmed: “The government will proceed with a new nuclear power plant at Sizewell C.”

Hunt added that the contracts with EDF will be signed “in the coming weeks”.

Meanwhile, he also outlined plans to increase the focus on energy efficiency, with a new target to reduce energy consumption “from buildings and industry” by 15% by 2030. Along with government money of £6bn in this parliament and a promised further £6bn from 2025, Hunt revealed that Business Secretary Grant Shapps would launch a new energy efficiency strategy in the near future.

On infrastructure, Hunt promised he was “not cutting a penny from capital budgets for the next two years”. He confirmed that the government would continue to back a number of flagship schemes, including the core Northern Powerhouse rail programme and East-West Rail, which is expected to involve private finance.

He also retained the concept of ‘investment zones’ outlined in Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-Budget, but significantly changed their focus so that they will be linked to universities in “left behind areas”. Hunt gave no more details on how these zones would work.

Finally, the chancellor also announced that the government’s response to its Solvency II consultation on the rules relating to institutional investment has been published, and would “unlock tens of billions of pounds of investment”. That response can be found here.