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Jeremy Hunt Says "We're All Going To Be Paying A Bit More Tax" Ahead Of Budget

Jeremy Hunt has warned the government will be forced to make "difficult decisions" (Alamy)

4 min read

The Chancellor has warned there are going to be "very difficult decisions" in next week's fiscal statement but insisted the UK was "resilient".

Jeremy Hunt has claimed the government's new economic plans will help keep any recession "as short and shallow as possible" as he compared himself to Scrooge ahead of Thursday's Budget plans.

Speaking on Sunday, the Chancellor said there would be no surprises in the latest fiscal plans after his predecessor Kwasi Kwarteng plunged the UK markets into chaos following a wave of shock announcements in his late September 'mini-Budget'.

The Chancellor is expected to announce a wave of public spending cuts and tax rises on Thursday as he attempts to fill an estimated £55bn blackhole in the UK's finances.

But he insisted there would not be any major giveaways in the upcoming statement, adding:  "I think it's fair to say this is going to be the first rabbit-free budget for very many years.

"I'm sorry to disappoint but, no, this is not going to be a time for rabbits, I'm afraid."

And comparing himself to the tight-fisted Dickensian protagonist, Hunt insisted he was willing to be "Scrooge who is going to do things that make sure Christmas is never cancelled".

"They are going to be very difficult decisions but we are a resilient country and we've faced much bigger challenges frankly in our history," Hunt added.

"We know that to deal with problems you have to face into them not run away from them and we're also a compassionate country... [the plan] will be one that gets us through these difficult times but also shows that British compassion, the support for these vulnerable people."

The Autumn Statement on Thursday will come alongside new independent forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility which are expected to corroborate warnings from the Bank of England, which suggested the UK is headed for a recession.

Responding to the warnings, Hunt insisted he would attempt to ensure any recession was as "short as possible", but accepted household finances were likely to be impacted as he said everyone would be asked to make "sacrifices".

"We're all going to be paying a bit more tax, I'm afraid," he told Sky News.

"We were able to help business through the furlough scheme and we've been able to help people with their energy bills this winter, and we'll be able to do so next winter because we've been responsible with public finances.

Rachel Reeves

"We're now in a situation where the world has changed very dramatically over the last year but the plan that we outline will help us get through this and I want to make sure this recession – if we are in a recession – is as short and shallow as possible."

The Chancellor is likely to face pressure to increase the tax burden on wealthy companies and high earners after Liz Truss's government was blamed for causing chaos in the UK's financial markets as a result of unfunded tax giveaways.

And shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Hunt should use Thursday's statement to make "fair choices" on tax.

"What I would be doing if I was Chancellor is closing some of the tax loopholes which mean today that some of the wealthiest in society and the biggest businesses are not paying their fair share of taxes," she said.

Reeves also called for the government to go further on hitting energy firms with a windfall tax to help fund some of the government's energy bills support package, as she accused Rishi Sunak of "slow pedaling" on the plans.

"There are fair choices the Chancellor could be making this week rather than just putting all of that burden on ordinary working people," she added.

"They are already struggling with the highest inflation that any of us have experienced for 40 years and now risk more of their money going in taxes rather than having it for the weekly food shop, the higher mortgage payments and everything else that is facing people right now."

But speaking to the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg, Hunt suggested there could be changes to the energy support scheme as he said "constraints" would have to be imposed.

"Will we continue to support people? Yes we will. Will it be uncapped, unlimited? There has to be some constraint to it but we will continue to support families and I'll explain exactly how we are going to do that," he said.

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