Cabinet ministers 'ganging up' on Philip Hammond over public sector pay, says former Chancellor

Posted On: 
3rd July 2017

Senior ministers are making life “very, very awkward” for Philip Hammond by pushing for an end to the public sector pay cap, Lord Lamont has said.

Lord Lamont Lord Lamont was Chancellor from 1990-1993
PA Images

The former Chancellor said it was wrong for ministers to “gang up” on the Chancellor when the Government had “no choice” but to cut back on public spending.

His intervention came as Boris Johnson became the latest senior minister to call for the 1% cap to be lifted.

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The Foreign Secretary joined Michael Gove, Michael Fallon, Chris Grayling and Jeremy Hunt in suggesting a change in policy.

Speaking on Radio Four's Today programme, Lord Lamont - who served as Chancellor under John Major - said: "I think it is not right for Cabinet ministers to gang up on the chancellor in this way.

“It is making his position, which is always very difficult, very, very awkward indeed and I do think that just to say because a lot of voters in the election objected to what is called austerity we must abandon it.

"The fatal flaw in the Conservative campaign in the election is they didn’t make an economic case, they didn’t argue that they had the considerable success that you refer to in reducing the deficit but that this unfortunately has to go on for a while. 

“They didn’t play their stronger card, which is actually their economic competence."

Lord Lamont added that limiting public spending throughout the next parliamentary term would lead to the Conservatives getting “their reward” of a better result at the next election.

He said: “I don’t think they have a choice. I’m saying this on the assumption, I think the government have to act as though they’re going to be in office for four years, which I think is perfectly possible, and I think they’ll get their reward at the next election; but you know, you need a period of time, you haven’t got a choice in this matter."

The grandee also said the cutbacks of recent Tory governments were “not really austerity”, and branded the term “another word for living within one’s means”.

“What concerns me is there seems to be a growing feeling in the Conservative party that because the electorate dislike austerity that this is the message that has come back and therefore it ought to be discarded.

“People are talking about austerity as if was an issue of too many repeats on television, or they got tired of watching Poldark and wanted a better programme.

“This is not a choice, it is unavoidable that we have restraint on public spending. People may not remember the fact that there was the severe financial crisis in 2007, 2008, the shadow of it is still with us…”

“What I object to, is austerity, which is just another word for living within one’s means, is not really austerity.”