Keir Starmer taunts Boris Johnson that he ‘can’t make his mind up’ on windfall tax, as he ducks pleas to act

Prime minister says he is against rising taxes – but then agrees to look at ‘all sensible measures‘

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 18 May 2022 13:17
Comments
Starmer accuses Rees-Mogg of acting like ‘overgrown prefect’

Keir Starmer has taunted Boris Johnson that he “can’t make his mind up” about a windfall tax on huge energy firm profits, as he ducked pleas to act now.

As inflation hit 9 per cent, the prime minister again refused to say if he will consider the levy, which Labour says would raise £2bn to cut bills and ease the cost of living crisis.

At first, Mr Johnson said the Conservatives are against rising taxes – but then switched tack, telling MPs: “Of course we will look at all sensible measures.”

Sir Keir said Britons facing poverty cannot afford to wait months for what he described as the “inevitable U-turn” of introducing a windfall tax eventually.

“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.

Mr Johnson blamed cost of living promises on sanctions on Russia – arguing “we knew it would be tough” – and accused Sir Keir of indecision, after he “struggled to define what a woman was”.

The clash came as the 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) says emergency help for people in hardship and vulnerable firms is “critical”, with the British Chambers of Commerce echoing 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 chancellor said wait until the autumn, at least he’s honest that the plan is to do nothing.”

The Labour leader said the bosses of Tesco and John Lewis, as well as senior Tory MPs, backed a windfall tax, adding: “Even the current boss of BP says it wouldn’t discourage investment.

“And, on the other side, the member for North East Somerset [Jacob Rees-Mogg], when he’s not when he’s not sticking notes on people’s desks, like some overgrown prefect.”

In response, the prime minister accused Labour of “a lust to raise taxes”, adding: “We don’t relish it, we don’t want to do it, of course we don’t want to do it.”

But, later, he said: “Of course we will look at all sensible measures but we will be driven by considerations of growth, investment and employment.”

Mr Johnson also linked the decision to act against Vladimir Putin to the soaring costs, telling MPs: “We always knew that there would be a short-term cost in weaning ourselves off Putin’s hydrocarbons and in sanctioning the Russian economy.

"Everybody in this House voted for those sanctions. We knew that it would be tough but....giving in, not sticking the course, would ultimately be the far greater economic risk.”

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