Sajid Javid Says UK Has A "Productivity Problem” After Liz Truss' Demands “More Graft”
Liz Truss has been criticised for suggesting British workers need "more graft" (Alamy)
Former health secretary Sajid Javid has defended comments by Conservative leadership frontrunner Liz Truss that British workers need to produce "more graft”.
In audio obtained by The Guardian, Truss – who was a Treasury minister at the time – describes "a fundamental issue of British working culture," and is heard saying she does not believe "people are that keen to change that" in order to create more productivity.
"Actually what needs to happen is more graft. It's not a popular message," she added.
Arguing that the country does have a longstanding productivity problem, Javid, who is backing Truss to become the next prime minister, shrugged off criticism of the controversial leaked recording, which Labour has called "grossly offensive”.
Javid told Sky News he believed the foreign secretary was helping to point out that “productivity in the UK versus other comparable countries is generally lower, and there's been a long-standing UK problem”.
But he insisted “that doesn't happen because British workers don't work hard”, and that people here are “amongst the hardest working in the world”.
“I think what she's talking about is business and investment, because to increase productivity the government of course has a huge role to play – things like capital investment, things like infrastructure, investment,” he added.
On Wednesday new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed the cost of living soared again in July, with the Consumer Prices Index of inflation (CPI) reaching 10.1% last month.
The increase, which beat expectation, was largely down to a rise in the cost of food and staples including toilet rolls and toothbrushes, the ONS said, and is the biggest jump in the cost of living since February 1982.
Javid said Truss "will act very quickly" on the economy through an emergency budget if made prime minister next month, and will go beyond simply cutting taxes as “we can't tax our way into growth”.
"She's also announced she's going to freeze the energy levies on bills for at least a year, and that will help," he told Sky News.
Javid said that while Truss believed more needed to be done to tackle the crisis, the right way to do so was for a prime minister to sit down with their team and work it out, rather than make preemptive pledges.
Truss has faced criticism for dismissing the possibility of “handouts” to help people with the cost of living, but now does not rule out targeted measures.
”Nothing has been taken off the table because she recognises as I do and as I think most politicians do, is that this is a very, very serious crisis for families at home," Javid continued.
“They would have looked at that inflation number today and whilst it might not be a shock because of what the Bank of England said recently, that doesn't make it any less palpable to anyone.
"People will be worried and Liz is going to be the right person to deal with this."
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