PM declines to rule out tax rises, saying only he will do without them ‘if I can possibly avoid it’
But the prime minister did not rule out tax rises altogether, telling BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show only that “if I can possibly avoid it, I won’t raise taxes again”.
There is unease among Conservative MPs arriving in Manchester for the party’s annual conference that Mr Johnson is now presiding over the highest-taxing administration since the Second World War, with the planned cut to Universal Credit 和 1.25 per cent hike in National Insurance due to disproportionately impact on poorer households.
A poll for 独立 today found that fewer than one-fifth of voters (19 百分) support the plan to slash UC, which takes effect on Wednesday, 和 59 per cent saying the level of the benefit should be maintained or increased.
Even among Conservative voters, 只是 34 per cent think it is right to remove the uplift altogether, 反对 43 per cent who said it should be maintained or increased and 13 per cent who said it should be kept at a reduced rate.
Charities have warned that as many as 300,000 children will be forced below the poverty line by the £1,040-a-year cut affecting 6m unemployed people and low-paid workers. Many of those taking a hit to their incomes will be key workers who were previously applauded for their contribution to the fight against Covid-19.
But Mr Johnson said it would not be “appropriate”, now that the Covid pandemic is waning, to keep the £20 uplift offered by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help poorer households cope with the outbreak.
He told Marr: “There was a whole package of measures, from furlough to bounce back loans to the Covid uplift, that are no longer appropriate.”
Mr Johnson said that wages were now rising faster for the low-paid than the wealthy following the lifting of lockdown restrictions.
“What we would rather do is help people into better-paid, better-skilled jobs – which is what is happening,“ 他说. “I’d rather see that than raising taxes to subsidise low pay.”
Mr Johnson denied he was taking the Conservatives away from the low-tax tradition of Margaret Thatcher, pointing out that she did not have to deal with the “fiscal meteorite” of a global pandemic which added £407bn to government spending.
But he said that his predecessor as Tory PM would also not be ready to borrow more now in order to soften the blow of the removal of subsidies for employment like furlough and the UC uplift.
“Prime minister Thatcher would not have borrowed more money now, I’ll tell you that much for free,” said Johnson.
Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds today said it was not too late for the PM to U-turn on Universal Credit.
“The public, charities and the government’s own assessment all agree this cut will be catastrophic,” Mr Reynolds told 独立.
“Working families are facing a Tory cost-of-living crisis this winter because of this government’s tax hikes, energy crisis and cuts to Universal Credit. It’s not too late for the government to change course and cancel their cut to Universal Credit.”
And the heads of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations wrote to Mr Johnson, warning there was no justification for making the cut at a time when the country is facing a “significant cost-of-living crisis” due to soaring prices for energy and food.
“There is no rationale for cutting such crucial support at a point when people across the UK are facing an unprecedented squeeze on their household budgets,” said the letter from Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford and the first and deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill.