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Jeremy Hunt Calls On Early Retirees To Work Again, Questions Over HS2 Future

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (Alamy)

4 min read

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has called on people who retired early to reconsider joining the workplace, as he declared that “Britain needs you”.

In a major speech this morning focussed on growing the economy, Hunt said that any attitudes espousing “declinism” about the UK were “just wrong.” 

“It’s always been wrong in the past, and it’s wrong today.” 

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has already outlined economic growth as one of his five priorities for the next year. 

Speaking this morning, Hunt said that the “around one fifth” of working age adults who are “economically inactive” marks “a shocking waste of talent and potential”. 

Hunt told attendees at Bloomberg’s central London offices: “We will never harness the full potential of our country unless we unlock it for each and every one of our citizens. 

“Nor will we fix our productivity puzzle unless everyone who can participate does.

“So to those who retired early after the pandemic or haven't find found the right role after furlough, I say Britain needs you. 

“We will look at the conditions necessary to make work worth your while.”

He also defended not cutting taxes, as he pledged that the “best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation.” 

Despite calls from backbenchers to make cuts, ministers have argued that to do so would make soaring inflation levels rise further. 

Hunt said that the Conservatives understand “better than others the importance of low taxes in creating incentives and fostering the spirits that spur economic growth.” 

He added: “Another Conservative insight is that risk taking by individuals and businesses can only happen when governments provide economic and financial stability.

“So the best tax cut right now is a cut in inflation.”

Questions over future of HS2 into central London

 A portion of the HS2 project into central London could be scrapped, The Sun has reported today, as the project has to deal with soaring inflation and costs. 

According to the newspaper, bosses are considering how to scale back costs, and options could include delaying the Euston terminus until the late 2030s, or scrapping that site altogether. 

In that case, the line would terminate at Old Oak Common in West London, and passengers would then use the existing Elizabeth line to reach the centre of the city, the report suggests. 

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh has said that such a move would be "extraordinarily short-sighted". 

She tweeted that it could "evaporate time savings" and "overwhelm the Elizabeth line" which opened last year. 

Asked about the reports this morning, Jeremy Hunt said he was committed to HS2 to the city centre and that "I don't see any conceivable circumstance in which that would not end up at Euston."

 

HMRC boss tells MPs there are no tax penalties for “innocent errors” 

The head of HMRC has told MPs has suggested that tax penalties are not issued as a result of “innocent errors”, as Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi continues to face questions over his tax affairs. 

Jim Harra told the Public Accounts Committee yesterday that penalties apply in instances of “carelessness”. 

He told the group of cross-party MPs: “Carelessness is a concept in tax law. 

“It can be relevant to how many back years we assess. It can be relevant to whether someone is liable to a penalty. There are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs.

“If you take reasonable care but nevertheless make a mistake, you would be liable for the tax and interest if it’s paid late. You would not liable for a penalty. But if your error was as a result of carelessness then legislation says that a penalty applies in those circumstances.”

Zahawi has faced calls to resign following the revelations that he had recently paid a settlement to HMRC, relating to his role in founding the polling firm YouGov prior to becoming an MP.

A number of Conservative figures, including several MPs, are among those questioning his position as party chair. 

On Monday, Sunak ordered an investigation into Zahawi's tax affairs which will be led by Sir Laurie Magnus, who was appointed as the Prime Minister's Independent Adviser on Ministers' Interests in December.

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