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Treasury minister quits over Northern Powerhouse and China ties

Blow to Prime Minister as key Cameron appointment walks out

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Friday 23 September 2016 12:07 BST
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in the summer, Lord O’Neill had made known he would walk out in September unless Ms May would give cast-iron commitments to his pet projects
in the summer, Lord O’Neill had made known he would walk out in September unless Ms May would give cast-iron commitments to his pet projects (PA)

Theresa May suffered her first ministerial resignation today, when treasury minister Jim O’Neill quit – citing concerns over the Northern Powerhouse and looser ties with China.

The former Goldman Sachs economist was handed the job – and a peerage – by George Osborne, despite not being a Conservative and, apparently, never having voted for the party.

In a letter to the Prime Minister today, Lord O’Neill said he was pleased that both reviving the North and economic links with China “appear to be commanding your personal attention”.

However, in the summer, he had made known he would walk out in September unless Ms May had given cast-iron commitments to his pet projects.

In today’s letter, he wrote: “I primarily joined however for the specific purpose of helping deliver the Northern Powerhouse, and to help boost our economic ties with key growing economies around the world, especially China and India and other rapidly emerging economies.

“The case for both to be at the heart of British economic policy is even stronger following the referendum, and I am pleased that, despite speculation to the contrary, both appear to be commanding your personal attention.

“I am leaving knowing that I can play some role supporting these critical initiatives as a non-governmental person.”

There were also suggestions that Lord O’Neill – who will also resign as the Tory whip and sit as Crossbencher in the House of Lords – opposes Ms May’s plans for new grammar schools.

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