Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hinted there could be further help for families struggling with soaring energy bills, but it would be “silly” to do it now.
In a wide-ranging interview with Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts, in which she put questions from the site’s users to the chancellor.
Sunak acknowledged people’s concerns over the expected energy price cap rise in October.
“We’ll see what happens with the price cap in the autumn, I know people are anxious about this and wondering if they’re going to go up even more,” he said.
“Depending on what happens to bills then, of course, if we need to act and provide support for people we will, I’ve always said that. But it would be silly to do that now.”
The latest hike – which saw the cap on energy bills rise to £1,971 at the beginning of April – is just starting to take effect and is expected to push millions of households into fuel poverty.
Asked about measures to support families through the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Sunak said: “I know things are tough right now, of course they are.”
He pointed to the raising of the national insurance contribution threshold, 5p cut to fuel duty and a £9 billion package to help people with energy bills.
However, “there’s a limit to how much we should be borrowing as a country”, he said, adding that more borrowing could drive up interest rates.
“Not borrowing huge amounts and just passing that tab onto our kids is the right thing to do.”
“How out of touch is this chancellor?”
For Labour, shaodow treasury minister Tulip Siddiq said Mr Sunak’s claim that it would be “silly” to act now showed he did not understand the pressures families were under.
“How out of touch is this Chancellor?” she said
“Families are already feeling the cost-of-living crisis, hit by record rises in energy prices, record high petrol prices and staggeringly steep hikes in the cost of food and essentials.
“With the Chancellor heaping them with the biggest tax burden in 70 years on top of that, people are paying more and getting less. It’s time to act.”
Quizzed about how someone in his financial position can empathise with people struggling to make ends meet, Mr Sunak, whose wife is the daughter of an Indian billionaire, harked back to his grandparents who emigrated to the UK “with very little”.
“Of course now I’m in a fortunate position but I didn’t start like that, that’s not how my family started.”
“Trying to help”
He said he is “trying to help people manage through some of the challenges we’re seeing with rising prices and I’ll never forget where I came from and the values that I was raised with”.
Asked if he believed the Prime Minister was behind the revelation of his wife’s non-domiciled status, which exempted her from paying tax in the UK on foreign earnings, Mr Sunak answered: “I don’t.”
The Chancellor defended the Government’s rejection of a windfall tax on oil and gas companies which have profited from the spike in global prices, saying it would risk putting off investment, though he did not completely rule it out.
“What I don’t want to do is discourage investment in our own energy supplies, because we want to improve our energy security so we’re not reliant on importing lots of things from abroad.
“If we don’t see that type of investment coming forward and if the companies are not going to make those investments in our country and in our energy security, then of course that’s something I would look at.”
On the International Monetary Fund’s prediction that the UK will have the slowest growth of any G7 nation next year, Mr Sunak argued the UK will be among the fastest-growing in 2024-25.
He said Britons should feel “confident” and “optimistic” about the economic situation.
The Chancellor said he shared Boris Johnson’s view that biological males should not compete in women’s sports and that women should have access to single-sex spaces in places such as hospitals and prisons.
“Biology is important, it’s fundamental, it’s critical to how we approach those types of questions,” Mr Sunak said.
He also revealed that his favourite type of biscuit is Maryland, saying: “People always take the mick out of me for my Peloton that I use, but the reason I have to use this Peloton is that I’m constantly eating either cookies or cake most days.”