‘A complete waste of time’: Ken Clarke attacks Sunak for failing to help poor hit by cost of living crisis

‘Cut out all the tax cutting’, ex-Tory chancellor says – calling for universal credit hikes instead

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 19 May 2022 09:09
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Ken Clarke has attacked Rishi Sunak’s efforts to ease the cost of living crisis, warning they are failing to help the poor while rewarding the better-off.

The former Conservative chancellor called the 5p fuel duty cut a “complete waste of time” and the £150 council tax rebate to help with soaring energy bills badly targeted.

Instead, Mr Sunak should increase universal credit (UC) payments as the best route to helping “the poor and the lowest paid”, Lord Clarke said – instead of slashing it by £20 a week.

“I would cut out all the tax cutting. I have already got all the tax breaks I need,” the Tory peer told LBC.

“The people who you’ve got to protect from falling living standards if you can are, of course, the poorest of the poor and the lowest paid.

Instead, Mr Sunak had cut UC, Lord Clarke said, adding: “And it’s there where people are genuinely choosing between feeding and other bills.”

He said: “I get my cheque to save me from fuel poverty. I stopped playing national insurance when I was 65.”

And he added: “I didn’t need the loan I apparently received through my council tax in order to pay my heating bills – although, of course, my heating bills are going up alarmingly.”

In the interview, the peer also:

* Attacked Boris Johnson’s plan to tear up the Northern Ireland protocol, which would provoke “a trade war with our biggest trading partner”.

* Criticised weak cabinet ministers who parrot “slogans” from someone from a think-tank “now working in Downing Street”.

* Came out against a windfall tax on excess profits of energy firms, arguing it would deter investment in new renewable energy sources.

The criticism came after the cost of living crisis dominated Prime Minister’s Questions, as Keir Starmer taunted Mr Johnson over the government’s paralysis.

Earlier, the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rate of inflation hit its highest rate since 1982 – with forecasts it will reach 10 per cent by the end of the year.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said emergency help for people in hardship and vulnerable firms is “critical”, while the British Chambers of Commerce echoed Labour calls for an emergency Budget.

Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of having “his head in the sand in the middle of an economic crisis”, adding: “The prime minister keeps saying more help is coming, but we’ve heard it all before.

“The working people across the country can’t afford to wait while he vacillates. It’s time to make his mind,” the Labour leader said.

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