Tory backbenchers urge chancellor to curb equality and diversity spending

Significant number of MPs have reportedly written letter to Jeremy Hunt

Dominic McGrath
Saturday 10 December 2022 23:16 GMT
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt (Aaron Chown/PA)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Jeremy Hunt is reportedly facing calls from around 40 MPs to cut government spending on equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives.

The Telegraph reported that a significant number of MPs have written to the chancellor on the matter.

It comes as the Conservative Way Forward group claims that millions of pounds of government money is spent on such initiatives.

Senior party figures, including David Davis and Sir Jake Berry, are reported to be among those to have signed a letter to Mr Hunt to tell him that “we need to be able to reassure our constituents, who are worried about the cost-of-living crisis, that every penny of taxpayers’ money spent on their behalf provides value for money and is not wasted”.

They add: “We will have a much better chance of cutting taxes or spending more on frontline public services if we end this sort of waste.”

Steve Baker, now a Northern Ireland Office minister, re-launched the Conservative Way Forward group this summer but stepped away when he joined the Government in September.

The chancellor is understood to be open to considering an upcoming Conservative Way Forward report on the issue as part of a wider efficiency review.

A Treasury spokesperson said: “The chancellor has been clear that spending discipline is crucial for building market credibility, ensuring economic stability, driving long-term growth and sustainably funding public services.

“Value for money remains paramount for the Treasury. To help manage pressures from higher inflation and keep spending focused on the Government’s priorities, departments will continue to identify efficiency savings in day-to-day budgets.

“To support departments to do this, the chancellor is launching an Efficiency and Savings Review. This will include reprioritising spending away from lower-value and low-priority programmes.”

It comes as Tory MP Lee Anderson said he is putting Rishi Sunak “on notice” after accusing his own party of failing to get a grip on illegal migration.

Mr Anderson, a former Labour councillor who defected to the Conservatives before getting elected in Ashfield in 2019, used a piece in the Mail on Sunday to warn his party leadership that it was “losing control” on illegal immigration and was “making a mockery of Brexit”.

It comes as the paper reports that the prime minister will use a major speech in January to offer voters a clearer vision of the future that includes tougher migration policies and support for families amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Mr Anderson, part of the crop of so-called “red wall” MPs who took Tory seats in former Labour heartlands across the north of England and elsewhere, was a Boris Johnson loyalist who only withdraw his support amid the outcry over the Chris Pincher affair controversy.

He has repeatedly demanded tough action from new prime minister Rishi Sunak, as well as home secretary Suella Braverman, in tackling cross-Channel migrants.

In the piece he writes: “I joined the Conservative Party in 2018 because I wanted to get Brexit done, reduce immigration and deliver for my friends and constituents in Ashfield.

If this isn’t solved within the first three months of 2023, we will struggle to retain the red wall seats

Lee Anderson

“We voted to take back control of our money, law and borders. Well, this small boats fiasco has shown that we’ve lost control of all three.

“We’re making a mockery of Brexit, the rule of law and of the kindness and generosity of the British people.

“In 2021, we passed the Nationality and Borders Bill, yet the problem in 2022 is 15 times worse than in 2021.

“So, I’m putting my party on notice.

“I can longer keep making excuses to the hard-working people of Ashfield whose taxes are being used to house illegal immigrants in four-star hotels while our own homeless are out on the streets.”

The attack from the Tory MP comes only days after a rebellion by backbenchers forced the Prime Minister into two separate climbdowns on onshore wind and housing targets.

Mr Anderson uses the letter to float the possibility that he could end up leaving the party if insufficient action is taken, in what would prove to be another headache for the Prime Minister.

He writes: “My party can be a force for good in this great country, but it isn’t yet choosing to be.

“If this isn’t solved within the first three months of 2023, we will struggle to retain the red wall seats and my conscience will be severely tested because I want to stand as a Conservative candidate representing a party that will put the interests of my constituents before the thousands of illegal immigrants arriving here every month.”

He concludes his article with a warning to the Prime Minister: “We need to sort this out by the end of March, otherwise my constituents and I will rightly lose patience.”

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