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Sat, 15 June 2024

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More Tories Refuse To Support Autumn Statement If Chancellor Raises Tax

Lord Frost at a speech by former Prime Minister Liz Truss (Alamy)

3 min read

Three more Conservative parliamentarians, two MPs and a senior peer, have signed a pledge to withhold support for the government's upcoming Autumn Statement if it proposes raising tax overall.

Former Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost, South Dorset MP Richard Drax and Hendon MP Matthew Offord added their names to the pledge on Monday.

The move is spearheaded by former Tory party chairman Sir Jake Berry, who launched the defiant statement on the eve of last month's Tory party conference in Manchester.

The pledge is backed by former prime minister Liz Truss and the ex-home secretary Priti Patel, as well as former Cabinet ministers Brandon Lewis and Jacob Rees Mogg plus Northern Research Group (NRG) chairman John Stevenson.

The total number of signatories now stands at 36.

They agree that they will refuse to "vote for or support any new taxes that increase the overall tax burden" when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt sets out the government's plans for the economy next month.

In a plea to ministers in The Times earlier this month, Berry wrote that government "cannot tax the economy back to health".

"There comes a time where we must make our position very clear that with taxes at a 75-year high — the highest since the Second World War — taxes cannot continue to go up," he said.

“We have decided to send a clear signal to our constituents that we will not vote for any further tax rises. We want to see growth in the economy and allow people to spend their money as they wish rather than the government deciding it knows best." 

For months a number of Conservative backbenchers have urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Hunt to slash taxes. The pair both argue it would be irresponsible to do so without first improving the health of the overall economy.

However, the Prime Minister and Chancellor face growing political pressure from the Tory side to bring down the tax burden as the party continues to trail Keir Starmer's Labour by large, double-digit margins in the opinion polls. 

Stunning defeats to Labour in last Thursday's by-elections in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire, which saw the Conservatives surrender huge parliamentary majorities, have also put Sunak under further pressure make what restless Tories describe as a more appealing offer to the public – particularly to 2019 Tory voters who are currently refusing to back the party.

Last month, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank calculated that between the 2019 general election and the next general election, which Sunak must call by the end of 2024, the Conservatives will have been responsible for the largest set of tax rises since World War Two.

In that period, taxes will have grown to 37 per cent of national income, the IFS said in September.

Among those calling most loudly for tax cuts are supporters of Truss, whose own plans for sweeping tax changes prompted chaos in the financial markets and her departure from Downing Street after just six weeks in office.

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