Rishi Sunak drops biggest hint yet he will cut tax before an election - despite Jeremy Hunt's caution

7 January 2024, 09:39 | Updated: 15 January 2024, 08:59

Rishi Sunak has pledged to keep cutting tax after Jeremy Hunt took a cautious stance
Rishi Sunak has pledged to keep cutting tax after Jeremy Hunt took a cautious stance. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak plans to cut taxes by shredding the welfare bill - as he made his firmest commitment to putting more money into workers' pockets before the next election.

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The prime minister has made his strongest hint so far that he will again reduce the tax burden, as his two percentage point reduction of National Insurance contributions kicked in this weekend.

His comments were more bullish than his chancellor Jeremy Hunt's, who just hours earlier warned LBC he would only cut taxes if it was affordable.

"The Autumn Statement delivered the biggest set of tax cuts in one event since the 1980s. That should give people a sense of the scale of what we've just done, and a sense of my ambition and the Chancellor's determination to cut taxes," Mr Sunak told The Telegraph.

Rishi Sunak has made his biggest commitment to cutting taxes yet
Rishi Sunak has made his firmest commitment to cutting taxes yet. Picture: Alamy

"When I say that I want to keep cutting taxes, that's what we're going to deliver.

"We're going to do that responsibly. That requires difficult decisions on public spending. It requires difficult decisions to control welfare.

"Those, I believe, are the right things to do for our country. That's what I want to do.

Read more: Jeremy Hunt will only cut more taxes if 'affordable and responsible' despite Tory hopes of pre-election boost

"I'm very clear, I want to control public spending, I want to control welfare, which we're doing and because we're doing that, and because we're being disciplined with borrowing and our debt, we're going to be in a position to cut taxes."

Having said this week he planned to call an election in the latter half of 2024, Mr Sunak said he was opening a clear divide between Labour and his vision of a tax-cutting, smaller government Tory offering.

Watch Again: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt joins Paul Brand | 06/01/24

Labour has long enjoyed a double-digit lead over the Conservatives.

But Mr Sunak appears to be hoping that as time goes on this year, inflation will be back down and extra money saved from tax cuts will boost his prospects.

As part of his bid to win back voters, he could implement an income tax cut in the Budget on March 6 that would kick in before the election.

He stopped short of saying he would do that, but his remarks are firmer than his chancellor's.

Speaking to LBC on Saturday, Mr Hunt said "we can't get back to pre-Covid levels of tax in one go".

He added: "In the budget coming up on March 6, just as in the Autumn Statement, I will be focusing on the growth of the economy.

"I can't tell you at this stage whether there'll be room for any tax cuts, as much as I'd love to introduce those if they're affordable and responsible.

"But we will be doing things that make sure we grow the economy.

"If we want more money for the NHS, and our public services, growth is essential."