Households can save £500 off their heating bills if they join “a national mission” to cut energy use by 15 per cent in response to Russia’s “blackmail”, Jeremy Hunt says.
The chancellor urged the public to “play your part” by following government tips to hit the target – in stark contrast to Liz Truss’s refusal to copy the EU by putting out official advice.
Giving evidence to MPs, Mr Hunt said the public has been given “a cushion” with the extension of the freeze on domestic bills, albeit £500 higher at a typical cost of £3,000 a year.
But he warned that support will end in spring 2024 – regardless of energy prices at that point – saying, of the 15 per cent target: “That is for every household.
“We think the £500 we are offering to help people save next year at current gas prices, if people do the 15 per cent they could save that £500 themselves in the amount they pay in the years to follow.”
Mr Hunt said: “We do need people to change their behaviour”, adding: “It is a national mission to make sure that we can’t be blackmailed by people like Putin.
“In the end everyone is going to have to take responsibility for their energy bills and they’re going to have to think about how they’re going to reduce their energy consumption.”
The chancellor also promised “a social tariff” from 2024 – to deliver lower energy bills to “all people equally on low incomes” – while stressing the technical difficulty.
It would involve “marrying” tax and benefits data, but, he said: “That’s a very difficult operational challenge, but that’s the direction we want to go.”
Earlier, the chancellor failed to deny he was the source behind a claim the UK will seek a “Swiss-style deal” to improve the Brexit agreement – but insisted he did not brief that is his aim.
Mr Hunt also revealed he has asked his officials to explore how much would be raised by scrapping non-dom status – in an apparent attempt to scotch Labour’s claim it would bring in £3bn a year.
He argued non-doms currently pay around £8bn a year and defended the tax loophole – exploited by Rishi Sunak’s wife – telling MPs: “Ireland has a non-dom regime. France has a non-dom regime.
“These are people who are highly mobile and I want to make sure that we don’t do anything that inadvertently loses us more money than we raise.”
The chancellor also defended his decision, in last week’s autumn statement, to cut a banking tax by reducing the “surcharge rate” from 8 per cent to 3 per cent.
It was fair in the context of the increase in Corporation Tax from 19 to 25 per cent. “If you add in 3 per cent surcharge, as it is, they are paying higher marginal rates on their profits,” Mr Hunt said.