By Simon Jack
The government has denied that plans for a new nuclear power plant in the south east of England are under review.
A government official had told the BBC that every major project was under review “including Sizewell C” as ministers try to cut spending.
But on Friday Downing Street quashed the idea that plant would be now delayed or reviewed.
However, a new high-speed rail line in the north of England is expected to be significantly scaled back.
Sizewell C is expected to provide up to 7% of the UK’s total electricity needs, but critics have argued it will be expensive and take years to build.
The plant is not expected to begin generating electricity until the 2030s. However, it would be difficult to axe Sizewell C as it was a manifesto pledge in 2019.
On Friday, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said it “hoped to get a deal over the line as soon as possible”, adding that talks with private firms over funding had been “constructive” and that negotiations were ongoing.
The government is due to unveil its tax and spending plans under new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the Autumn Statement on 17 November.
The new Business Secretary, Grant Shapps, gave the clearest indication yet that recent commitments by former Prime Minister Liz Truss were very likely to be scaled back.
Ms Truss had pledged to build a major rail scheme in northern England in full, with a high-speed link eventually connecting towns and cities from Hull to Liverpool, through Bradford.
But the plans for the rail line – known as Northern Powerhouse Rail – are now expected to be reduced.
Speaking to the BBC, the business secretary said that journeys between Manchester and Leeds for example, will be brought down to 33 minutes, as promised in the Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto.
“There wasn’t really much point in going and blasting new tunnels through the Pennines… it’s not true to say we’re not delivering on what we said we would do on levelling up the north,” he said.
However, Henri Murison, chief executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership lobby group said scaling back the rail line raised “serious questions” about the government’s plans to boost growth.
“The North’s woeful transport infrastructure continues to weigh down our economy and hold back private investment.
“This option saves little to nothing to Treasury coffers now. Northern Powerhouse Rail is still in early development stage meaning that the vast majority of the investment needed is well beyond the current spending review period.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman said, however, that sticking to previous plans would deliver benefits “sooner”.
He added that there were “a number of options” for high-speed services in the north of England, and that the transport secretary was “looking at those closely”, with more detail to be set out soon.
Last month, Ms Truss and France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, pledged “full support” for Sizewell C on Suffolk’s coast, which is set to be developed by French energy company EDF.
The government gave the go-ahead for the plant in July. EDF has said it could generate enough for about six million homes.
New large-scale nuclear plants have been a key part of a government strategy to help reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. Boris Johnson whilst PM declared it was his intention to build eight new reactors in the next eight years.
A shift away from that position would represent a major change in UK energy policy.
While campaigning for the Conservative leadership in the summer, Mr Sunak pledged to uphold Mr Johnson’s plan to build eight new reactors.
He also argued in favour of reforming licensing laws to allow the government to deliver more nuclear plants in a bid to achieve energy independence by 2045.