Ministers working on fresh cost-of-living support package to put to new PM

Thursday, Aug 11, 2022

LONDON: The Government is working up a fresh package of cost-of-living support for the next prime minister to consider when they take office, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has said.

Simon Clarke argued it is “absolutely right” for the new leader to consider “these options in the round” when they take the reins, suggesting they should steer clear of announcing “new uncosted policies” during the election period.

It comes after frontrunner Liz Truss – who has Mr Clarke’s backing – hit out at “bizarre” proposals to agree help for rising energy bills with the Government and her rival Rishi Sunak before the contest is over.

Mr Sunak said he would welcome a meeting to agree emergency support ahead of the winter, but Ms Truss branded the proposal a “kangaroo committee” at Tuesday’s leadership hustings in Darlington.

On Wednesday, consumer champion Martin Lewis called on the two candidates to set out how they will tackle the energy crisis to alleviate the “mental health damage” facing millions in the UK.

Later, speaking in Manchester, Ms Truss insisted the country already has a “proper constitution” in place. Put to her that some are asking why she cannot team up with her rival, as well as the outgoing PM, to assure people that there will be help for them in September, she said “we have a Prime Minister, we have a Chancellor”, and they make decisions at present.

Separately, in an interview with the Evening Standard, she doubled down on her view that cutting taxes is a top priority. “I’m not going to say anything further about a future Budget in advance because I think that would be irresponsible,” she said. Ms Truss vowed to do “what I can” to help households across the country, as “I look at the evidence and I sort things out”.

In a series of tweets, Mr Clarke said the Government is “working up a package of cost-of-living support that the next Prime Minister can consider when they take office”.

He stressed his view that the leadership hopefuls should avoid “uncosted policies” during the election, and instead look at the options “in the round” if and when they take charge. The senior Treasury minister added that he has “no doubt” that Ms Truss will do the “responsible and honest thing” if elected, by “making decisions in light of all the facts”.

Speaking during a visit to Belfast, Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi acknowledged the Government is making “all sorts of contingency plans” when challenged over the risk of blackouts this winter.

He said the UK must be able to “withstand” the “pressure” sparked by Russian president Vladimir Putin “playing with energy prices deliberately”.

“Hence why we have to make all sorts of contingency plans,” he said.

“Hence why we have to be focused on… getting that £400 of help into people’s pockets, making sure we deliver that whole £37 billion – and see what more we would need to do later on in the winter and give whoever becomes prime minister the options that we can make available.”