Tory leadership frontrunner Liz Truss today refused to offer immediate help with rocketing energy bills, amid mounting clamour for an emergency budget.
Asked repeatedly in a TV interview whether she was ruling out direct payments to households worst-hit by inflation, the foreign secretary did not deny the claim, instead saying that she wanted to focus on tax cuts.
And she indicated she will resist calls from former prime minister Gordon Brown and the CBI for her to get together with leadership rival Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson to agree an immediate package of help, saying that she would not “write the budget in advance”.
Sunak ally Dominic Raab today warned that Ms Truss’s plans for tax cuts will be “electoral suicide” for the Conservatives, as they will not deliver the help needed by millions of households forced to cut back on food and heating this winter.
Truss supporters appeared earlier this week to be backing away from Ms Truss’s rejection of “handouts”, suggesting that she would provide help of some kind if elected Conservative leader on 5 September.
But challenged during a visit to Huddersfield today over whether that would mean further direct payments of the kind offered by Mr Sunak in a £15bn package earlier this year, she gave no indication that she favours the approach.
“What I’m doing is making sure people are paying less taxes and also having a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy to save people money on their fuel bills,” she said.
“I’m not going to write the budget in advance. We’ll see what the situation is like in the autumn.
“But I’m committed to making sure people are supported. And I’m committed to growing the economy.
“What I am clear about is that, from day one, I will reduce taxes… What’s important is that we get the economy growing. We can’t get the economy growing if we have the highest tax rates for 70 years in this country. And I’m determined to change that.
“I’m determined to challenge the orthodoxy. And I’m determined to do things differently. But I’m not going to write the budget in advance.”
Mr Sunak has warned that Mr Truss’s plan to reverse his National Insurance hike will save low-income families less than £200 a year, while the removal of green levies will save each household an average £150, at a time when consumers are facing a leap in the energy price cap from £1,971 now to £3,500 or more in October and over £4,000 in January.
The former chancellor announced in May that every household would get £400 off their energy bills, while those on means-tested benefits would receive a further £650.
He has made clear he will extend the package if he becomes PM, with sources suggesting that his priority will be to increase support for the most vulnerable.