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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”.

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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.

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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.

BBC One

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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”.

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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.”

Boris Johnson

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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

Select a topic and a candidate to find out more

BREXIT

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Would leave the EU with no deal, but it's not his preferred option. – Wants changes to the Irish backstop and proposes sending a new negotiating team to Brussels. – Wants to make changes to the withdrawal agreement and thinks it's possible to get them done by 31 October, but has not ruled out an extension.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Has pledged to get the UK out of the EU on 31 October, the deadline for Brexit set by the EU, but thinks the chances of a no-deal Brexit happening are a "million to one". – Would like to leave on the basis of a new withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU, with the backstop removed and replaced with "alternative arrangements". – If this is not possible, he would ask the EU to agree to a "standstill period" during which the UK could negotiate a free trade deal with the bloc. – Failing this, the UK must be prepared to leave on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms if required, and the country would "get ready for that outcome". – Says he would demonstrate "creative ambiguity" over when the UK will pay the £39bn "divorce" payment it is due to give the EU as part of the negotiated deal. He has also said the money should be retained until there is "greater clarity about the way forward".

IMMIGRATION

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Calls for flexibility on immigration, saying skilled workers should be prioritised. – Wants to review policies of stopping migrants with less than £30,000 coming to the UK to work. – Would scrap the Conservative target of reducing net annual immigration to below 100,000 a year, he told the Daily Mail.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Promises to deliver an Australian-style points-based immigration system, considering factors including whether an immigrant has a firm job offer before arrival and their ability to speak English. – Opposes the net migration target of under 100,000 per year. – Says he is "open to talent, open to immigration" but it "should be controlled". – Would block the ability to claim benefits immediately when someone arrives in the UK.

TAX

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– As an entrepreneur, he wants to turn Britain into "the next Silicon Valley… a hub of innovation". – Pledges to slash business taxes to the lowest in Europe to attract firms to Britain after Brexit and reduce corporation tax to 12.5%. – Wants to increase the threshold at which workers pay National Insurance to at least £12,000 a year.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Pledges to cut income tax for people earning more than £50,000 by raising the 40% tax threshold to £80,000. – Plans to pay for the reported £9.6bn annual cost of the cut in part from a pot set aside by the Treasury for a possible no-deal Brexit, and in part by increasing employee National Insurance payments. – However he says his tax proposals will begin by "lifting thresholds for those on lowest pay".

SPENDING

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Wants to boost defence spending by £15bn over the next five years. – Promises to build 1.5m new homes for young people over the next 10 years.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Pledges to "find the money" to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers over an as-yet unspecified period. – Promises to speed up the delivery of "full fibre" internet connection, with the super-fast service available to all by 2025, eight years earlier than currently planned. – Focus on Northern Powerhouse. – Wants to review the HS2 train project.

HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Says there should be an automatic system for people to save for their social care costs in old age "in the same way they save for their pension". – Says people should be able to opt out of the scheme, and the government would cap costs for those who "save responsibly" during their lives. – 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

– Has previously said money spent on the EU could be put into the NHS. – Says more should be spent on social care, according to a cross-party "national consensus". – Says the NHS would be "free to everybody at the point of use" under his premiership and has ruled out a pay-for-access NHS, even as a result of a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

EDUCATION

Jeremy Hunt
Foreign Secretary

– Says anyone who creates a new business which employs more than 10 people for five years would have their university tuition fee debts written off. – He also plans a cut in interest rate paid on student loans. – Long-term plan to provide more funding for the teaching profession in return for a guarantee that no one leaves the education system without a "rigorous qualification" sufficient to work up to at least the average salary. – Wants to transform the education system to abolish illiteracy.

Boris Johnson
Backbencher

– Promises to raise spending on secondary school pupils to £5,000 each. – Called the funding gap between some schools in cities compared with those in rural areas a "disturbing reality".
Brussels

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”.

Daily Mail

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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.

Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48798355

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