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Jeremy Hunt promises 1.5 million homes for 'generation rent' as Tory leadership hopeful makes pitch for young voters

Foreign secretary's five 'youth pledges' also include reductions in student debt interest and boost for mental health support in schools 

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 08 June 2019 22:44 BST
Jeremy Hunt confirms his bid for Conservative leadership

Conservative leadership contender Jeremy Hunt is promising to deliver 1.5 million additional homes for “generation rent” over the next 10 years, as part of a radical five-point plan to win young voters over to the Tories and close the divide between young and old.

The foreign secretary, who is vying with Michael Gove for a slot alongside favourite Boris Johnson on the final ballot paper in the race for No 10, warned that the party could not win a majority if it gave up on young people.

His five “youth pledges” also promise mental health support teams in every school, legislation to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2050, reduced interest on student debt and more support for young entrepreneurs.

The initiative amounts to an implicit acknowledgement that the interests of younger voters have taken a back seat during nine years of Conservative-led governments, which have often focused on maintaining the living standards of pensioners.

Announcing the package days after Tories slumped into third place in the Peterborough by-election, Mr Hunt said: “The lesson from Peterborough is that once we’ve delivered Brexit we have to broaden our appeal.

“There is no majority in relying just on those who voted for us in 2017 and the party now faces a choice about whether we want write off our chances with young people.

“I believe we have to unite the country, especially the divide between young and old. As prime minister I would deliver my pledge to young people to show that – when it comes to housing, climate change, mental health and education – we are on your side.”

The government aims to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, but many of these will be family houses and expensive apartments beyond the means of most young people. Aides said that further details of how Mr Hunt would deliver 1.5 million properties for young people would be unveiled during the course of the Tory leadership contest, which officially begins on Monday.

The former health secretary would fund mental health support teams based in schools and colleges from the £2.3 billion a year in additional spending on mental health services already planned by 2023-24. Some of that funding would be used to fund treatments for mental health issues such as exam stress, behavioural difficulties or friendship issues.

Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom and Boris Johnson are among the Conservative leadership contenders (AFP/Getty)

A new Clean Air Act would raise standards on UK air quality to World Health Organisation levels, provide new powers for local authorities and consolidate existing legislation.

And Mr Hunt would fit 2.5 million new electric charging points in homes, by the roadside and in rural towns to ensure a national charging network for greener electric-powered vehicles.

Interest rates on student debt could be reduced from RPI inflation plus 3 per cent for current students to bring it in line with the RPI inflation rate.

Mr Hunt would also consider repaying the tuition fees of graduates that go on to start successful businesses, to boost the current level of 1 per cent of graduates going into employment after leaving university who set up their own companies.

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