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Rishi Sunak Insists He Is A Low Tax Tory, But Won't Rule Out Further Rises

Rishi Sunak Insists He Is A Low Tax Tory, But Won't Rule Out Further Rises
3 min read

Rishi Sunak said he is instinctively low tax, but refused to rule out further rises before the next general election.

Speaking on Sunday before delivering his autumn Budget next week, the Chancellor said tax cuts is "what I'd like to deliver" and "where my instincts are" but that the coronavirus pandemic had forced his hand to do otherwise.

"I've got to take the world as it comes," Sunak told Sky's Trevor Phillips. He refused to rule out more tax rises before the country next goes to the polls, which is currently scheduled to be in 2024, but is heavily rumoured to be as early as 2023.

In other developments:

  • Sunak this morning said the current Covid-19 data suggests moving to the government's plan is not "immediately necessary".
  • The Chancellor said he wears face masks on public transport but did not criticise Conservative MPs who don't do so when sitting in the House of Commons. 
  • UK officials said this week's talks with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol had been "constructive" but there were still big gaps between the two sides.
  • Sunak Faces A Tightrope Walk Of Pleasing Wary Tories And Reversing Austerity With His Budget.

Asked about Conservative MPs who are uneasy with tax rises already announced by the government, such as the recently proposed increase to National Insurance, Sunak said critics should "take a step back" and look at what "I and the government have had to grapple with over the past year and a half". 

"We’ve had the biggest economic shock we’ve experienced in 300 years and the need to support the country through that," Sunak said.

"That was enormously costly and drove our borrowing up to levels we haven’t seen since World War Two."

"I wish I hadn’t had to deal with coronavirus, a once in a three hundred year economic shock and all the damage that has done to the economy, as well as an NHS backlog that was stretching into the millions and we thought it was really important to address by getting some funding into it."

Beyond what the Treasury has already announced ahead of the Chancellor's statement, Sunak was tight-lipped about what to expect when he delivers the Budget next week.

One of those announcements is a £500m package to help support parents with young children, which will include the creation of 75 hubs across the country where families can access services. 

"I passionately believe that we have a duty to give young families and their children the best possible start in life," Sunak said when the package was announced over the weekend.

However, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves today said the plan for support hubs was a "pale imitation" of the Sure Start centres introduced by former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, but were later cut by the Tory-led coalition government.

Reeves told Sky News: “I would just say to the Chancellor: have you ever heard of Sure Start?" That’s what your governments over the last 11 years have cut.

"It’s all well and good saying we’re going to invest in these family hubs but thousands of children’s centres and Sure Start centres that were proud features of our communities – especially some of our poorest communities – have long gone.”

Sunak refused to criticise former Chancellor George Osborne for the decision to reduce funding for Sure Start centres, which resulted in hundreds being forced to close, arguing that the decision was made "in the context" of the financial crisis. 

The Chancellor confirmed in his interview with the BBC's Andrew Marr that public sector workers would find out on Wednesday whether they would be receiving a pay rise in April.

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