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Watch: West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock launches Tory leadership bid in London

PUBLISHED: 10:52 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 18:33 13 June 2019

Health Secretary Matt Hancock launches his campaign in central London to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock launches his campaign in central London to become leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

West Suffolk MP and Health Secretary Matthew Hancock has launched his campaign to lead the Conservative Party with London press conference for Westminster-based media.

He pledged to increase the national living wage to more than £10 an hour - increasing the pay of people on the living wage by £3,500 a year.

Currently a 100/1 outsider to take over from Theresa May as Tory leader, Mr Hancock outlined his plans at the launch of his leadership campaign in central London on Monday.

He also pledged to reduce taxes on working people "when we can afford it", draw up a long-term plan for education, and proposed an insurance scheme so people did not have to sell their homes to pay for social care.

He said: "When we can afford it I will reduce tax on working people so they can keep more pounds in their pockets.

"For the lowest paid I will increase the national living wage to two-thirds of the median income, over £10 an hour, by the next general election in 2022.

"My plan will increase the pay of those on the national living wage by £3,500 a year."

Mr Hancock ruled out proroguing Parliament in order to ensure the UK leaves the EU on October 31.

He has previously set out a Brexit delivery plan to leave by October 31, including establishing an Irish border council, made up of UK and Irish officials, to prevent the return of a hard border and time-limiting the backstop.

Mr Hancock said no-deal would not get through the House of Commons and that his delivery plan was the "only credible plan" that could be passed by Parliament and the EU.

He added: "Some have said 'Stick with the current plan', but the current plan has been seen to fail.

"Others say 'Let's just run at no-deal', but the brutal truth is we know that no-deal will not get through the House of Commons.

"And then there's this idea from some people that to deliver Brexit we should suspend our parliamentary democracy - that we should prorogue Parliament.

"But that goes against everything that those men who waded on to those beaches fought and died for (on D-Day), and I will not have it."

When asked whether he would call a general election or delay Brexit if he did not get his deal through, Mr Hancock insisted his proposals would succeed.

He added: "I think that having a general election before we deliver Brexit would be a democratic disaster.

"I am confident the deal I put forward is deliverable both in Europe and in Parliament."

When asked if what he would do if it did not pass before the deadline, he added: "I am not running to fail, I am running to succeed in these negotiations."

Mr Hancock warned that the Conservative Party would not win another majority if it became the Brexit party.

He added: "We need to deliver Brexit but not be defined by Brexit - we need to get to the centre ground."

He added that it was absolutely right for Michael Gove to stand despite admitting taking cocaine because "you don't just want people who have had a perfect past" in politics.

Mr Hancock said he was offering the "fresh start" the country needs and set out his vision to make the next decade "the soaring Twenties" for the post-Brexit UK.

He insisted the country needed "a leader not just for the next six weeks or six months, but the next six years and more".

The former culture secretary revealed that his mantra was "move fast and make things happen", a twist on the Silicon Valley motto of "move fast and break things".

He said: "We can't allow this sane, sensible country to enter a new age of nihilism and narrow nationalism.

"So, I refuse to be the leader offering simplistic or populist solutions to such profound change. Instead, an emotionally-charged platform to improve lives, rooted in objective fact.

"Some people say these changes are too big and too inevitable for us to do anything about it. I say no. We are masters of our own destiny. We can win this fight.

"Ultimately, the success of liberal democracy and our way of life depends on it. We can and must work with this change, master it, bend it to our benefit.

"Not 'move fast and break things', that's wrong. My mantra is 'move fast and make things happen'."

Mr Hancock has previously pledged to scrap business rates for small retailers and increase a tax on internet companies to "level the playing field" for high streets, and has set out his vision for a foreign policy that boosts trade and "resists protectionism", while also promising to "uphold our values".

Mr Hancock launched his campaign on the day that nominations opened in the battle to take over as leader of the Conservative Party - and therefore as Prime Minister.

At the start of the day there were 11 candidates who had declared - with former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson still clear favourite.

One of the contenders, former Employment Secretary Esther McVey, has pulled out of a speaking engagement near Ipswich later this week so she can carry on campaigning among her MP colleagues in Westminster.

MPs still keeping their tinder dry on who to back for Tory leadership

Nominations may have closed in the race to become the new Prime Minister, but several MPs from this region have still to decide who to back in the race to Number 10.

Waveney's Peter Aldous was quick to back Environment Secretary Michael Gove for the top job, while Colchester's Will Quince and South Suffolk's James Cartlidge are both backing Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock his one of those standing - but has not yet won any endorsements from his near neighbours.

Other MPs we have tried to contact have either been unavailable on the first day back since the campaign officially started - or have said they are still waiting to make their choice known.

Red-hot favourite for the top job Boris Johnson has not yet won the endorsement of any local MPs - but that may change over the next few days as more prepared to cast their vote in the first round of Westminster voting on Thursday.

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