Rishi Sunak says 'it was right to wait' for bailout package
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Rishi Sunak has been left floundering for an answer amidst efforts by Sky News’s Niall Paterson to pin the Chancellor down over the Treasury’s delay in bringing forward measures aimed at easing the cost of living crisis. Mr Paterson put the Chancellor on the spot in the studio on the timing of the Government’s windfall tax, the idea for which he said had been “kicking around for several months.”
Mr Paterson asked the Chancellor: “Why now, why not in the Spring Statements? I mean, this idea of a windfall tax has been kicking around for several months.
Mr Sunak replied: “Well on the levy that we’re putting on energy companies, as I said, we wanted to take the time to get that right, so we could also incentivize investment that is a very different feature of how we’re doing is it’s an important one, and I think was important to take the time to get that right.
“But why now is a perfectly fair question, I’ve always been consistent and I’ve said since the spring, earlier in the spring that I was prepared to do more and we would do more.
“But it was right to wait until we had some more certainty about what would happen to energy bills in the autumn. They’re the biggest driver of their lives, and it wasn’t until this week, we heard from OFGEM, who are the regulator then sets those prices that we now have a bit of clarity about that and that meant I could size the support appropriately.”
JUST IN: Sunak ‘throwing red meat at socialists’ with windfall energy strategy
The Chancellor bowed to demands for the UK Government to step in and help households to deal with ballooning energy bills and rising shop prices, which are being fuelled by 40-year-high inflation, by revealing an emergency package of extra cash for millions of people.
Every household will receive a £400 energy bill discount while extra support was also unveiled for the lowest paid, pensioners and those with disabilities.
Under the plans, almost all of the eight million most vulnerable households could receive at least £1,200 of support, including a previously-announced £150 council tax rebate.
Mr Sunak confronted criticism that the measures were announced as part of a plan to move the focus on from rule-breaking in No 10 following the publication of senior civil servant Sue Gray’s report on Wednesday.
Martin Lewis quizzes Rishi Sunak on help for families
The report contained a photograph of Mr Sunak attending Boris Johnson’s surprise birthday bash in the Cabinet room in June 2020, for which the Chancellor and the Prime Minister were both fined £50 by the Metropolitan Police.
In an interview with Martin Lewis, founder of the Money Saving Expert website, the Chancellor was asked whether the fiscal measures had been quickly unveiled to act as a “fig leaf” after embarrassing details of the late-night raucous parties in Downing Street were laid bare.
He replied: “I can categorically assure you that that had no bearing on the timing for us announcing this support, and I can give you my absolute assurance on that and my word.
“The reason we acted today was because we had more certainty about what will happen to energy prices in the autumn.”
He insisted Scotland Yard had “not shied away from issuing a fixed-penalty notice where we thought it was deserved”.
Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson had “set the bar so low as Prime Minister”.
She told Loose Women on ITV: “I think one of the problems now is that he’s been proven to be a liar and somebody who is incompetent in office, certainly at a time when we had the pandemic.
“I think it does create a problem when you’ve set the bar so low as the Prime Minister of a country that you can literally break the law in office, and then it’s like, ‘oh, well, sorry, I didn’t know about it. Everybody else is to blame’.”
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