Sunak ‘too distracted by plotting for PM’s job’ to deal with cost of living

The Chancellor stopped short of offering anything concrete on new proposals when challenged in the House of Commons.

Richard Wheeler
Tuesday 01 February 2022 13:43
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (PA)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (PA)

Rishi Sunak has remained tight-lipped over any new policies to help people through the cost of living crisis, despite pleas from MPs for action.

The Chancellor told MPs he is “aware of people’s anxieties” and he will continue to “look at all the policies we have in place” to ensure support is being offered in the “best way possible” in the coming months.

But Mr Sunak stopped short of offering anything concrete on new proposals when challenged in the House of Commons to go further to deal with rising energy and food prices.

The SNP accused the Chancellor of being “too distracted by plotting for the Prime Minister’s job to help those affected by this crisis”.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Sunak’s number two, Simon Clarke also defended the forthcoming national insurance hike by insisting there is “no other responsible way” to pay for NHS improvements.

The 1.25 percentage point national insurance increase from April is expected to raise £12 billion a year for health and social care services, but breaks Boris Johnson’s 2019 election manifesto commitment not to raise taxes.

Speaking at Treasury questions, Conservative former work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb said: “(Mr Sunak) has always shown a powerful instinct for protecting those on the very lowest incomes, but can I say respectfully to the Chancellor that we are going to have to do something around energy costs.

“On Friday I met with a couple in my constituency who showed me their fixed tariff agreement for energy coming to an end and a new one that is coming on stream is more than double.

“They are going to really struggle this year paying their energy costs. Can I ask him to look at this?

“The warm homes discount isn’t perfect but it is a useful vehicle for doing something helpful.”

This is a cost of living crisis yet today is the first time the Chancellor has been to this House since the start of December and we still don't hear a plan from him - too distracted by plotting for the Prime Minister's job to help those affected by this crisis

Alison Thewliss, SNP

Mr Sunak replied: “I can tell him that I am of course aware of people’s anxieties about what is coming and he can rest assured that we will continue to look at all the policies we have in place to make sure that we are supporting people in the best way possible through the months ahead.”

SNP Treasury spokeswoman Alison Thewliss asked for details on when “additional, practical financial support” will be announced.

She said: “Inflation is running at 5.4% – the highest level in nearly 30 years.

“It’s having a real and painful impact already on people and businesses, with worrying reports today that increased bills are pushing businesses to lay off staff and the upcoming national insurance hike is a tax on jobs as well as individuals.

“This is a cost of living crisis yet today is the first time the Chancellor has been to this House since the start of December and we still don’t hear a plan from him – too distracted by plotting for the Prime Minister’s job to help those affected by this crisis.”

On high levels of inflation, Mr Sunak described it as a “global phenomenon” and insisted the Government’s existing plan for the economy is working.

Treasury minister Mr Clarke, when pressed by DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) to help families by dropping the national insurance increase, said: “There is no other responsible way for us to finance the nine million more checks and scans and operations that the health and social care levy is going to unlock than if we do it through a broad-based tax increase, which is highly designed to make sure we protect vulnerable families.

“The six million lowest-paid will pay no extra tax at all as a result of the levy.”

Shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden said: “On Sunday, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor nailed themselves to the mast of the national insurance rise coming in this April.

“Like Thelma and Louise, they held hands and they are going to drive off the cliff.”

Mr Sunak insisted there are a range of measures the Government has put in place to help people with the cost of living, including an increase to the minimum wage.

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