New Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged his support for a nuclear renaissance, the Barrow-based Dreadnaught submarine programme and Northern Powerhouse Rail in his maiden speech.

Mr Johnson, who was appointed Prime Minister on Wednesday, made the pledges – all of interest to Cumbria – when he addressed Parliament for the first time on Thursday morning.

On nuclear, Copeland MP Trudy Harrison asked him: “Does the Prime Minister agree that the time is now for a nuclear renaissance and that Copeland is the centre of nuclear excellence?”

Mr Johnson replied: “It is time for a nuclear renaissance and I believe passionately that nuclear must be part of our energy mix and she is right to campaign for it and it will help us to meet our carbon targets.”

His comments were made just days after the Government launched a consultation into funding large-scale nuclear power stations and an £18 million Government investment into the development of small modular reactors through a consortium led by Rolls-Royce, and including the National Nuclear Laboratory, Wood and Nuvia.

Opinions are being sought between now and October 14 on a proposed Nuclear Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model to fund large power stations.

It was the Government’s preferred way of supporting NuGen’s plans for its Moorside power station development in West Cumbria. 

But its introduction mid negotiation between NuGen owners Toshiba and Korean utility Kepco, appeared to cause delays which eventually led to the scrapping of the £15 billion project – which took with it the prospects of thousands of jobs and enough energy to meet seven per cent of the nation’s needs.

However, experts believe that adapting the RAB model to support new nuclear is still years from being completed.

Mr Johnson also agreed to “throw the whole weight of Government” behind building the Dreadnought-class submarines in Barrow. 

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodock asked: "We are in a race against time to build the new Dreadnought class of submarines to maintain a Continuous at Sea Deterrent... will he throw the whole weight of government behind that vital task?"

Mr Johnson said he admired Mr Woodcock's “commitment to a vital national asset” which is built in his constituency. 

“I draw attention only to the real risk that is posed not just to the economy but to the security of our country if it should ever be governed by the party that he has rightly left,” Mr Johnson replied, attracting a firm nod from Mr Woodcock.

And in a further potential boost to Cumbria and the wider Northern economy, the Prime Minister also pledged his support to Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Business organisations have been lobbying hard for a firm commitment to the project – which would connect major cities across the region – amid fears it could be dropped if costs for HS2 continue to spiral.

While investment in the £39 billion NPR scheme would be focused outside Cumbria, its backers have argued that it would boost capacity and connectivity in the county.

Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, has argued that the project has a key role to play in closing the North-South economic divide by boosting productivity and creating thousands of new jobs.

He also hailed the appointment of Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry as Minister of State. Mr Berry will continue as Northern Powerhouse and in his roles with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government and Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Alongside Rishi Sunak – who was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Mr Johnson’s sweeping reshuffle – “we finally have strong voices for the North at the Cabinet table”, said Mr Murison.

“Today’s encouraging words from our new Prime Minister alongside the fact we now have a team better placed to drive forward the Northern Powerhouse agenda means a project to create jobs and homes will be seen through, alongside essential progress on devolution, education and skills,” he added.

Other key appointments to the Government include Andrea Leadsom as business secretary – who replaces Greg Clark – and Jo Johnson and Kwasi Kwarteng as business ministers.

Grant Shapps has become transport secretary, replacing Chris Grayling, who helped to launch the start of commercial flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport at the start of the month.

He was one of several high profile casualties due to the regime change. Another was Phillip Hammond, who has been replaced by Sajid Javid.