BORIS Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have brought the Conservative Leadership Election campaign trail to the North-East, promising a beneficial Brexit for Britain.

The candidates vying to become next Tory leader and Prime Minister were quizzed by party members in Darlington – a town where the Tories have recently gained control of the council for the first time in 40 years.

The pair both held an audience with dozens of Conservatives in the Darlington Hippodrome yesterday, discussing Brexit, transport, investments and how to bounce back from austerity.

Both candidates were also pressed over reports that he was kept away from intelligence briefings during his tenure as Foreign Secretary, stating: "it's not true".

Mr Hunt refused to comment on the story. He said: “We have the finest intelligence services in the world, but that does depend on some discretion by the Foreign Secretary."

Despite the claims, Mr Johnson has garnered influential support from Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen who was praised by the would-be PM for the "fantastic work" he is doing in the region.

Mr Houchen stated he was "delighted" Mr Johnson would roll out Free Ports across the country as quickly as possibly should be be elected. Teesside is one of six locations earmarked for a Free Port by Mr Johnson, lifting tax duty on imports and exports.

Mr Hunt could not give assurances on a Teesside Free Port, instead agreeing to explore the "potential".

The Foreign Secretary did however make a strong commitment to improving the region's transport links via the Northern Powerhouse Rail – giving his full support to extend the HS2 high speed rail project to Darlington, Durham and Newcastle.

Mr Hunt opened his address to party members revelling in Darlington's rich railway history, adding the "engineering brilliance" of the region sees exports of bridges being shipped out all over the world.

He continued: "Something else which is interesting about Darlington that is maybe not quite so world-renowned is that it is home to Student Finance England.

"I'm wondering if that engineering brilliance can be used to reduce the extortionate six per cent interest rate on tuition fees which is a big problem in attracting young voters."

With questions open to the floor, one young Conservative asked Mr Johnson how he would attract more young men and women to the party.

He said: "When young people can't get on the property ladder, of course you feel left out. We need to help young people into home ownership – we need to build good quality houses on brownfield sites, not greenfield sites or the green belt.”

He concluded that the Conservatives have a “fantastic record of environment improvements” which should attract more young people to the party who are passionate about the environment.

Mr Johnson arrived at the Darlington Hippodrome shortly after 10am and was the first candidate to deliver a speech to guests before facing questions from a host and party members.

Mr Hunt followed on from his rival for Number 10, with the pair not going head-to-head on stage during the hustings.

Both candidates were asked to reflect on their political careers during the husting yesterday morning. Mr Hunt revealed he felt austerity had gone too far under the Tory Government.

He said that "with the benefit of hindsight”, financial cuts to police funding and social care were too deep and he pledged to reverse both.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson claimed he was never in favour of the Conservative austerity programme and resisted David Cameron’s plan for an 'austerity Olympics'. “That not the stuff to give the troops,” Mr Johnson said he told then Prime Minister Mr Cameron.

He was also asked if he had ever made any gaffes during his career in politics, which attracted bursts of laughter from the audience.

Mr Johnson said: "I'm very proud of my gaffes and some of them I regret and I apologise for, but very often what you're really doing is saying something that is true and necessary."

He also reflected on if he had made any personal sacrifices for his job. After a few moments searching for an answer, he said he could have more money outside politics.

When asked when was the last time Mr Hunt let someone down, he said he thought about the British-Iranian Nazanin Zeghari-Ratcliffe every day she is jail.

More than 160,000 Conservatives will mark ballot papers before July 22, with the new leader likely to be announced July 23.