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Liz Truss U-turns on corporation tax and admits her plan ‘has to change’

PM concedes radical mini-Budget ‘went further and faster than markets were expecting’

Adam Forrest
Friday 14 October 2022 16:31 BST
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Watch in full: Liz Truss admits her plan ‘has to change’

Liz Truss has announced that corporation tax will rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent next year in a major U-turn on her tax-cutting mini-Budget.

The prime minister admitted at a No 10 press conference that her radical agenda had spooked the financial markets, saying her borrowing-fuelled plan “went further and faster than markets were expecting”.

Ms Truss insisted she still wanted to deliver a “high-growth economy”, but also conceded: “The way we are delivering our mission right now has to change.”

Announcing the move to raise £18bn a year, she said the government had to “reassure the markets of our fiscal discipline”, adding: “I have therefore decided to keep the increase in corporation tax that was planned by the previous government.”

Ms Truss said it would act as “a down payment” on the medium-term fiscal plan to be announced on 31 October. “We will do whatever is necessary to ensure debt is falling as a share of the economy in the medium term,” she said.

The PM confirmed she has appointed former health secretary Jeremy Hunt as her new chancellor after sacking her close ally Kwasi Kwarteng at lunchtime, saying Mr Hunt would deliver the fiscal plan at the end of the month.

Ms Truss said she was “incredibly sorry” to lose Mr Kwarteng – but said Tory moderate Mr Hunt was “one of the most experienced and widely respected government ministers and parliamentarians”.

Torsten Bell, chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said the limited nature of the U-turn on tax meant major cuts to public spending would still be needed.

“So over half of tax cuts are still going ahead. What does this mean? £20 - £40bn of spending cuts still to come,” the think tank chief tweeted.

Signalling significant real-terms cuts were on the way, Ms Truss said: “We will control the size of the state ... Our public sector will become more efficient to deliver world-class services for the British people. And spending will grow less rapidly than previously planned.”

The PM declined to apologise for the turbulence in the wake of her economic plan at her seven-minute press conference, but conceded a U-turn was necessary to “restore economic stability”.

She sidestepped questions about her own position. Asked why she gets to stay when Mr Kwarteng was sacked, Ms Truss said she wanted to “make sure that we have economic stability, and I have to act in the national interest”.

The PM also insisted that Mr Hunt “shares my desire for a high-growth, low-tax economy, but we recognise because of current market issues we have to deliver the mission in a different way”.

Ms Truss has also demoted key ally Chris Philp, moving him from his role as chief secretary to the Treasury to the Cabinet Office, where he becomes a junior minister and paymaster general. Mr Philp will be replaced at the Treasury by Edward Argar.

At Westminster, there have been reports of fevered plotting among Tory MPs amid suggestions that Ms Truss’s two main rivals for the Tory leadership over the summer – Mr Sunak and Penny Mordaunt – could be installed.

One former Tory minister told The Independent that the latest moves as “desperate” and said it would not be enough to salvage Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng’s careers.

Tory MPs told The Independent her short press conference was “dire” and “a mess”, with one backbencher saying discussions were under way on ways to replace her quickly by moving behind one figure.

Members of cabinet, Therese Coffey and Nadhim Zahawi, have been tweeting support for her and the new chancellor. But a group of senior Tory MPs are preparing to publicly call on Ms Truss to resign next week, according to BBC’s Newsnight.

One source told the programme: “Liz Truss campaigned on these tax cuts. Liz Truss won the Tory leadership contest on the basis of this programme. It is absurd for her to blame Kwasi.”

Sky News shared a leaked WhatsApp messages revealing a row going on between ex-culture secretary Nadine Dorries and other Tory MPs about whether getting rid of Ms Truss would mean a general election.

Philip Hammond, Tory chancellor under Theresa May, said he did not think Ms Truss could “resolve the political damage”. He told BBC’s World at One said the PM had “thrown away years and years of pain-staking work to build and maintain a party of fiscal discipline”.

Nick MacPherson, former top civil servant at the Treasury, said Bank of England government Andrew Bailey was responsible for a major change in course. “All credit to Bailey of the Bank … whose Friday deadline has forced the government to adopt a more orthodox economic policy and thus restore order to the markets,” he tweeted.

For Labour, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said the whole government had to go. “Changing the chancellor doesn’t undo the damage that’s already been done.”

Nicola Sturgeon urged the PM to quit, adding that if she refuses, her MPs should back an election. “The only decent thing for Tory MPs to do now is call time on her government and allow an election.”

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