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Sun, 27 September 2020

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Boris Johnson faces backbench pressure on tax, schools and coronavirus as Parliament returns after summer of U-turns

Boris Johnson faces backbench pressure on tax, schools and coronavirus as Parliament returns after summer of U-turns

Boris Johnson faces a bulging in-tray and a series of backbench rebellions as MPs return from summer recess (PA)

3 min read

As Parliament returns from summer recess Boris Johnson is facing pressure from his backbenchers on planned tax rises, getting schools back open and a raft of policies in response to the coronavirus.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet have come under fire over the summer after a series of U-turns, with Tory MPs saying it is eroding morale and making it hard "to promote and defend government policy”.

Mr Johnson will meet with his senior ministers on Tuesday morning ahead of the House of Commons’ return in the afternoon, amid a row over what will be in Rishi Sunak’s autumn Budget.

The Chancellor is rumoured to be drawing up a series of tax rises to help pay for the billions spent on the Covid-19 response, but many of the proposals have been met with anger from within the party.

And a minister told The Telegraph moves such as hiking corporation tax or capital gains will be like "acid rain falling on the green shoots of recovery”.

Other Conservatives are suggesting Mr Sunak should instead look to reduce taxes in a bid to encourage growth, as the economy struggles to bounce back from the hit caused by the pandemic.

There is also anger over a series of recent U-turns, such as on face coverings in schools, coming soon after the A Level and GCSE exam algorithm fiasco.

Senior backbencher Charles Walker, vice-chair of the 1922 committee, said decisions taken by the PM during the coronavirus crisis had caused consternation among colleagues. 

“Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing," he told the Observer.

"This is not a sustainable way to approach the business of governing and government.”

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, 1922 Committee treasurer, said their executive is due to meet with Mr Johnson in the "near future" to relay the concerns of MPs.

The PM is also trying to strike a Brexit deal before the end of the transition period, deal with an increased push for Scottish independence, getting more workers back into offices and a looming unemployment crisis as the furlough scheme comes to an end.

On Wednesday the merger of the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development will formally take place, with reports it could lead to a cut in the foreign aid budget, which stands at 0.7% of the UK's GDP.

But former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "With the ink hardly dry on our manifesto, I don't think the House of Commons would easily agree to balance the books on the backs of the poorest women and children in the world."

And the Tory chair of the Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood, said the proposal was "shortsighted in failing to appreciate how well-targeted aid can strengthen relationships and open up new markets - thus helping the Treasury".

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