Worried Conservatives urge Prime Minister to ease consumer woes as energy prices skyrocket | Taxes and Expenses
Tory MPs told the Prime Minister expanding existing support programs would not be enough to help consumers hit by large price hikes, with Downing Street ruling out delaying a tax hike in April.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said on Thursday the Treasury was exploring ways to mitigate the impact of soaring energy prices on consumers when the price cap revised in February.
The effect of the new cap will be felt from April, the same month in which the 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance takes effect.
But a number of senior conservatives told the Guardian that measures such as expanding the hot house discount for vulnerable families would do nothing to help the majority of their constituents – claiming the mail bags were “filling up” of worries.
MPs have repeatedly called for a reduction in VAT on energy bills and the removal of environmental taxes – even if this meant paying beneficiaries out of direct taxation.
Craig Mackinlay – chairman of the Net Zero review group of Tory MPs who say they are concerned about the cost and effectiveness of the government’s environmental measures – said that it “would lighten the immediate burden on people … I think this would be a better system, maybe only temporarily until we get more stability in the international energy market.
Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, said there should be further tax cuts for the lowest paid in order to ease the burden, including minimizing green levies when prices l energy increase.
“I am not a climate denier, I think we need to act,” he said. “But we have a cost of living crisis right now – people in my riding are struggling to feed their families, are only making ends meet but are not eligible for these other programs.”
MPs have privately said Boris Johnson could face serious rebellions in the spring as they signal their discontent.
“It will be a big deal – this is bread and butter policy,” said one MP. âWhy would people vote Conservative if they cannot feed and clothe their families? Labor is not stupid, it talks about it week after week.
Johnson’s spokesman said there were no plans to delay the 1.25 percentage point hike in national insurance, which is expected to generate Â£ 12 billion. House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg reportedly asked Sunak at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting to reconsider the increase.
“I think it is important not to lose sight of what the national insurance measure seeks to achieve,” the spokesperson said. âWe know that one of the main priorities of the publicâ¦ is the backlog in our NHS. This is their priority and this is what we are going to achieve.
âIn the longer term, it will also tackle another fundamental problem that has been overlooked for too long, namely the injustice of our current social protection system.
âThese are two key priorities that need to be funded. We are doing it in a fair and progressive way. And that’s why we take this approach.
The Treasury is reportedly looking at targeted measures to help vulnerable consumers with higher bills, such as extending the hot house rebate, but Sunak is said to be skeptical of the VAT cut.
Speaking at a vaccination center in Haywards Heath, the Chancellor said a number of measures were already in place.
âOf course, I understand the anxiety and worry people have about energy bills in particular,â he said. âOf course we’re always listening, making sure that the policy we have is going to support people the way we want them to, and that’s what our track record over the past year or two shows. “
For example, he said, the government had raised the living wage in the spring and reduced the rate of degression of universal credit, as well as helped pay the bills of retirees and vulnerable families.
But Rees-Mogg’s intervention is likely to revive the debate within the party on the increase in national insurance. Before Christmas, Lord Frost resigned from the cabinet citing high taxation, as well as Covid policy.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said the tax decision has been made and will go ahead. âWe made our decisions. We have a collective responsibility, âhe told BBC Radio 4’s Today program.
During questions in the Commons, phantom Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire teased Rees-Mogg about his intervention, saying that the removal of the tax was “something we’ve been calling for since his announcement … I wonder – is – he’s about to cross the room? “
Rees-Mogg did not respond directly, but said Labor’s call to end fuel VAT was only possible because of Brexit. “If we were still in the megalithic state that she was campaigning forâ¦ we wouldn’t be able to reduce VAT on fuel.”