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Cabinet Minister Avoids Ruling Out Mini-Budget U-Turns After MPs Turn On Liz Truss

James Cleverly speaking to the media at Conservative party conference (Alamy)

3 min read

Foreign secretary James Cleverly has refused to rule out further changes to the government’s mini-budget as Liz Truss struggles to bring her party on side.

The Prime Minister is under growing pressure to drop her pledge to scrap the planned rise in corporation tax, which was due to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in April.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had said the rise would not go ahead in his mini-budget last month, but the government is under growing pressure to go ahead with the increase as planned in a bid to balance the books and reassure financial markets.

Speaking to Sky News, the foreign secretary repeatedly refused to directly engage with questions on whether there would be further reversals of policy by the Chancellor in the coming weeks.

"The Chancellor is making a statement on 31 October which gives a more holistic assessment of the public finances and our response to the global headwinds that every democracy, every economy in the world is facing,” Cleverly said.

"The foundations of that mini-Budget, protecting people from energy bill prices, letting people keep more of their earnings, protecting businesses from those energy prices, making sure we are internationally competitive, all those things are really key for the growth agenda the PM is putting forward."

Asked specifically about corporation tax, he said that it was "absolutely right" that the government helps businesses to "stay competitive" and "stay afloat", and that Kwarteng would set out the government’s plan later this month.

"We have got to make sure we can compete internationally with the other places businesses can choose to locate. We have got to make sure we are tax-competitive,” he continued.

Truss is facing an internal struggle to bring her party on side, after a difficult speech to the 1922 Committee on Wednesday evening failed to convince MPs that she had a handle on economic issues.

"After tonight most Tory MPs accept that our current leader, given the decisions she took with the Fiscal Statement, can never provide the reassurance needed to arrest the loss of market confidence," one senior Tory MP told PoliticsHome.

"She should never be trusted with a financial statement ever again. It is a bit like asking the gas engineer who has just blown up your house to come back and have another go."

Earlier this week, several leading economists told MPs they believe there is "absolutely a UK component" to the current market chaos, and that Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng's unfunded tax cutting plans were the "straw that broke the camel's back".

The government was forced last week to reverse plans to scrap the 45p tax rate for the highest earners following heavy pressure from Tory MPs.

But, speaking yesterday in her first PMQs since the "mini-Budget", Truss ruled out cuts to public spending, raising questions about how her remaining tax cuts will be funded. 

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