New Chancellor admits mistakes have been made by Truss administration
The new Chancellor has criticised the “mistakes” of the Liz Truss administration in his first interview since taking the job, as he warned of “difficult decisions” to come on tax and spending.
New Chancellor Jeremy Hunt denied that the UK was returning to an austerity era, but admitted that “difficult” decisions needed to be made on spending.
“I don’t think we’re talking about austerity in the way we had it in 2010 when I was also in the Cabinet.
“But we are talking about very difficult decisions in budgets where there is already a great deal of pressure.”
Mr Hunt indicated that tax rises could be coming as he seeks to balance the books and steady the markets after a disastrous few weeks for the Liz Truss administration.
Hunt, who replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor on Friday as Liz Truss sacked her friend and ditched a major chunk of her mini-budget in an extraordinary gamble to stay in power, said that mistakes had been made by the Government.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hunt said: “There were mistakes. It was a mistake when we’re going to be asking for difficult decisions across the board on tax and spending to cut the rate of tax paid by the very wealthiest.
“It was a mistake to fly blind and to do these forecasts without giving people the confidence of the Office of Budget Responsibility saying that the sums add up.
“The Prime Minister’s recognised that, that’s why I’m here.
“We will have some very difficult decisions ahead. Spending will not rise by as much as people would like and all Government departments are going to have to find more efficiencies than they were planning to.”
He continued: “Some taxes will not be cut as quickly as people want. Some taxes will go up. So it’s going to be difficult. But as we take those difficult decisions, my priority, our values as a Government, will be to protect families, businesses, who are going through a very challenging time.”
“The fundamental strategy behind it all, which is that we have to solve the growth paradox if we want well-funded public services like the NHS and to keep taxes low and falling, then we have to increase our growth rate. That is absolutely right and I also would like to be able to cut corporation tax.”
But on his first full day in office as Chancellor, Mr Hunt declined to give any specific commitments ahead of the fiscal statement on October 31.
“I’m not going to make any specific commitments about specific departments now, or indeed on the tax side about specific taxes because we have to look at these things in the round. And we have to make sure as we take these very difficult decisions, we’re honest with people about the situation we face.”
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme how long Ms Truss would remain Prime Minister, he appeared to rule out any early election and said that Liz Truss would be “judged” by her successes over the next 18 months.
He insisted that his party was united “around the most important issues” and said: “I think what the country wants now is stability. She has been Prime Minister for less than five weeks and I would just say this – I think that she will be judged at an election.”
But asked if he now has a “clean slate” on the mini-budget and if he could change elements of the plan, Mr Hunt said: “Yes. And the fundamental thing the Prime Minister wants me to do and I need to do is to be completely honest with the country.”
Former Welsh secretary, John Redwood MP offered an early warning to the new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt about his tax and spending plans.
Tweeting on Saturday morning, Mr Redwood said: “You cannot tax your way to higher growth. If you tax too much you end up borrowing more as you have a worse slowdown.”
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