UK Politics

Tory leadership: Jeremy Hunt would give Boris Johnson a cabinet job

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt Image copyright Getty Images

Jeremy Hunt says Boris Johnson should have a "very big role" in his future cabinet if he wins the Tory leadership contest - despite his competitor refusing to make the same offer.

The foreign secretary told a hustings in Exeter he would love Mr Johnson on board as he was an "enormous talent".

But his rival told the event he was "not making commitments to anybody".

Mr Johnson also denied reports that he had offered a job to Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

He told the hustings that, if he made any comments on his prospective cabinet, he would be seen as "measuring the curtains" for 10 Downing Street and there was "still a long way to go" in the contest.

The two contenders are taking part in 15 hustings across the country as Conservative Party members decide on their party's next leader - and the next UK prime minister.

The 160,000 members will begin voting next week and the winner is expected to be announced on 23 July.

The pair were quizzed by the audience on a number of issues, from Brexit and Russia, through to animal welfare and the sugar tax.

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Media captionJohnson responds to claims of avoiding debates

Asked by an audience member whether he would give Mr Johnson a role in his government, Mr Hunt made a joke that he could be his "secretary of state for collective responsibility".

But after his "light-hearted dig", he added: "Of course I would love to have Boris in my cabinet.

"Boris is someone of enormous talent. He has changed the course of our history through his leadership of the Leave campaign and he should always have a very big role in taking things forward."

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Media captionHunt: Tories will be 'crucified' without Brexit

Mr Hunt also said he would be happy to serve under Mr Johnson, adding: "We are in an incredibly difficult situation and I think whoever doesn't win in this contest needs to put their shoulder to the wheel and serve loyally the winner, so that we can get through this, get to the other side and give the country all the exciting things we want to do."

But asked the same question, Mr Johnson said there was "a wealth of talent on the Conservative benches".

Pushed by the hustings' host, LBC radio presenter Iain Dale, on the convention of giving a losing leadership opponent a cabinet position, Mr Johnson added: "I have a very, very high regard for Jeremy.

"It sounds to me eminently fair and logical, but I am not making commitments to anybody because you would not expect that."

Compare the candidates' policies

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...and a candidate

Brexit

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Wants to leave with a deal, but says he would back a no-deal Brexit with "a heavy heart" if necessary. - Will create a new negotiating team to produce an "alternative exit deal" to Theresa May’s plan, and engage with EU leaders over August. - Will present a provisional no-deal Brexit budget in early September and decide by the end of the month if there is a "realistic chance" of a new deal. - If not, will abandon talks and focus on no deal preparations. - Pledges to cover the cost of tariffs imposed on the exports of the farming and fishing industries in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

- Vows to leave the EU by the 31 October deadline "come what may", but claims the chance of a no-deal Brexit is a "million to one". - Wants to negotiate a new deal, which will include replacing the Irish backstop with alternative arrangements. - Will not hand over the £39bn divorce settlement with the EU until the UK gets a new deal. - If a new deal is not agreed, will ask the EU for a "standstill period" to negotiate a free trade deal. - Argues a provision under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, known as GATT 24, could be used for the UK to avoid tariffs for the next 10 years, but admits it would need EU sign off. - Promises to support the rural community in a no-deal Brexit scenario with "price support" and "efficiency payments".

Immigration

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Calls for flexibility on immigration, saying skilled workers should be prioritised. - Wants to review policy of stopping migrants with less than £30,000 coming to the UK to work. - Pledges to scrap the target to reduce net migration to below 100,000.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

- Wants a new Australian-style points-based system, considering factors such as whether an immigrant has a firm job offer and their ability to speak English. - Will get Migration Advisory Committee to examine the plan. - Wants to block the ability for immigrants to claim benefits immediately after the arrive in the UK. - Opposes the net migration target of under 100,000 a year.

Tax

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into "the next Silicon Valley... a hub of innovation". - Wants to cut corporation tax to 12.5%. - Wants to raise the point at which workers start paying National Insurance to at least £12,000 a year. - Pledges to scrap business rates for 90% of high street shops. - Will increase the tax-free annual investment allowance from £1m to £5m.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

- Pledges to raise the tax threshold for the higher rate to £80,000 (rather than the current £50,000). - Wants to raise the point at which workers start paying income tax. - Will review “unhealthy food taxes” such as sugar tax on soft drinks.

Spending

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Wants to increase defence spending by £15bn over the next five years. - Promises to keep free TV licenses for the over-75s. - Wants to build 1.5 million homes and create a “right to own” scheme for young people. - Backs both HS2 and a third runway at Heathrow.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

- Pledges more money for public sector workers and wants to increase the National Living Wage. - Will “find the money” to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers by 2022. - Promises to maintain spending 0.7% of GDP on Foreign Aid. - Wants to review the HS2 train project. - Pledges full fibre broadband in every home by 2025.

Health and social care

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Promises more funding for social care. - Wants to introduce an opt out insurance system to fund future care, similar to the way pensions work. - Wants to target manufacturers of unhealthy foods to make them cut the sugar content. - Mental health support to be offered in every school and a crackdown on social media companies that fail to regulate their content.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

- Rules out a pay-for-access NHS, saying it would remain "free to everybody at the point of use" under his leadership. - Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS. - Plans to give public sector workers a "fair" pay rise, according to supporter Health Secretary Matt Hancock. - Says more should be spent on social care, according to a cross-party "national consensus".

Education

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

- Pledges to write off tuition fees for young entrepreneurs who start a new business and employ more than 10 people for five years. - Wants to reduce interest rates on student debt repayments. - Long-term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession. - Wants to abolish illiteracy.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

- Wants to raise per-pupil spending in primary and secondary schools, with a minimum of £5,000 for each student in the latter. - Wants to look at lowering the interest rate on student debts.

The pair also discussed a story in the Sun that claimed the government was looking to extend its "sugar tax" on soft drinks to milkshakes.

Mr Hunt said the the country needed to "tackle the obesity crisis", but the "quickest way" was to target manufacturers of unhealthy food to reduce the level of sugar.

"You threaten them," he said. "You say, we would be prepared to legislate if you don't play ball.

"But my experience is, if you make that threat, you don't actually need to follow through with the dreaded milkshake tax."

Mr Johnson mocked his own weight while answering the question, but said he was "very, very reluctant to imposes taxes... that clobber those who can least afford it".

He added: "What we should be doing, if you want kids to lose weight, is make the streets safe... encourage kids to walk and cycle to school, which will help them to lose weight as well, and generally take more exercise and be more active".

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Media captionJohnson on milkshake tax

And Mr Johnson was also asked about accusations in the Daily Mail that he called the French "turds" during the filming of a BBC One documentary about the Foreign Office.

The newspaper accused the BBC of cutting the clip from the programme - which aired last November - at the request of the Foreign Office, who worried the comment would make Anglo-French relations "awkward".

Mr Johnson said he had "no recollection of this comment", adding: "Perhaps what everyone will want to know is, can I get a fantastic deal for our country from our French friends, can we go forwards in a friendly, collegiate way, and yes, of course we can."

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "The programme set out to reflect the realities of life inside the Foreign Office. The production team made judgments about what was in the programme and they are satisfied that the programme achieves its ambitions and has the content they wanted."

The Foreign Office declined to comment.