'Almost inevitable' Sunak will have to announce more help for squeezed Brits: senior Tory

28 March 2022, 20:53

Stride: Chancellor will have to revise his Spring Statement

By Patrick Grafton-Green

A senior Tory MP has said it is "inevitable" Rishi Sunak will return to the House of Commons with amendments to his Spring Statement after it was met with significant backlash.

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The Chancellor has been accused of not doing enough to address the needs of those worst affected by the cost of living crisis, especially those on Universal Credit.

Labour has insisted he has "room for manoeuvre" but acted "in his own interest" rather than those of Brits.

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Mr Sunak appeared in front of the Commons Treasury Committee on Monday afternoon where he was grilled by MPs over last week's statement.

The committee's chairman, Mel Stride, told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr: "I heard quite a bit about what the Government is generally doing... the hardship grants, the help with fuel bills and so on.

"I got a sense that there would be more of that to come as we approach the autumn."

Eustice insists that Sunak has risen to the cost of living challenge

When pressed by Andrew over whether he thought Mr Sunak would come back to the Commons with more, he added: "I think it's almost dead cert that he's going to have to do that.

"What he knows of course is that the energy price cap at the moment is locked in until the autumn so he can make an assessment of where the energy prices go in the interim and they have fluctuated very wildly at the moment.

"I think it's almost inevitable that he's going to have come forward with something else."

The former leader of the Commons said the cost of living crisis is "very significant" and conceded it is not possible for Mr Sunak "to magic away the consequences of what has been a huge and painful shock".

When asked about the Chancellor's plummeting popularity, after he was once seen as a future leader of the Conservative Party, Mr Stride added: "I do think that it's undoubtedly more difficult now than it was during the pandemic but let's not take away from him the fact that he is a very smart individual.

"He has I think done a pretty good job during the pandemic, he's coming into some choppy waters now but one of the things that he's shown throughout the pandemic and more recently as well is the ability to be nimble.

"I suspect that he will constantly be calibrating not politically but economically where things are and coming to the House of Commons as and when necessary to make some changes.

"He's never been shy of doing that and I think that will still prove to be a strength."

After Mr Sunak unveiled his Spring Statement last Wednesday, he was accused of not doing enough to help the poorest amid the biggest fall in living standards on record.

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Both The Resolution Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies think tanks said he could have done more for those hardest hit by soaring costs.

With inflation set to hit 8% by the end of the year, the rise in the cost of living will dwarf planned increases in benefits in the months ahead.

Mr Sunak said he was cutting 5p from fuel duty and raising the point at which workers have to start paying National Insurance from £9,600 to £12,570.

He also told MPs the basic rate of income tax will be cut from 20p to 19p in 2024.

But Labour's Jon Ashworth told Sky News over the weekend: "Rishi Sunak absolutely had more room for manoeuvre in this Spring Statement and mini budget, but rather than acting in the interests of the British people, he was playing games.

"He was acting in his own interest because he thinks by offering an income tax cut in two years that'll help him politically with Conservative MPs if there's a leadership contest or that'll fit the Tory election grid.

"I don't believe that putting 1.3 million people into poverty because you're imposing a very severe real-terms cut to Universal Credit, you're imposing the biggest cut to the pension in 50 years, is fair."