Rishi Sunak is reconsidering a rise in taxes and cutting public spending in Jeremy Hunt‘s delayed budget after the UK’s finances saw a significant improvement in recent days – with borrowing costs and gas prices falling.
The Chancellor yesterday announced that the medium term fiscal announcement would be delayed from Halloween to November 17 to allow time to rework the economic plan amid a £40billion black hole in the nation’s finances.
But analysis has today shown that the two-week delay cut the figure by up to £15bn with the interest rate on government gilts and international gas prices both falling swiftly.
The forecast has led to growing confidence in Downing Street that only minor changes will be required to public finances.
Downing Street declined to comment ahead of an autumn statement next month, but Mr Sunak is understood to be considering whether some of the measures that would have featured in the Halloween statement can now be altered or removed completely, The Telegraph reports.
A report by think tank the Resolution Foundation has found that the two-week delay to Mr Hunt’s budget could save between £10bn and £15bn.
But the Treasury will still be required to find significant savings and revenue, with the Prime Minister and Chancellor raising fears of raid on old-age pensions to help fill the black hole.
No10 this afternoon refused to confirm that the ‘triple-lock’, used to peg increases to rises in the cost of living, would be kept in place – despite being a Tory manifesto pledge.
Downing Street has declined to comment ahead of an autumn statement next month, but there may also be a real-terms cut in benefits next year after the PM refused to confirm that Universal Credit will increase in line with prices.
The statement was originally set for November 23 by former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, but he was forced to bring it forward amid economic turmoil created by last month’s mini-Budget.
Mr Hunt also yesterday said that he had discussed the plan last night with the Bank of England, after Mr Kwarteng left Andrew Bailey out of the loop.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sat alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons yesterday
Minutes after revealed he and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had pushed back the Budget by two weeks Mr Sunak, speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, warned the opposition that he would not shy away from ‘difficult decisions’
Sir Keir kicked off PMQs by arguing the ‘Tories have crashed the economy’, adding ‘those with broadest shoulders must step up, does he agree?’
The new Prime Minister convened his Cabinet this morning ahead of his first face-off with Labour’s Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions
Jeremy Hunt said today that he had discussed the plan last night with the Bank of England. Former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had left Governor Andrew Bailey out of the loop with last month’s mini-Budget
Jeremy Hunt arrives at Downing Street today to discuss the Halloween Budget with the Prime Minister
Ministers including Education Secretary Gillian Keegan began arriving in Downing Street this morning ahead of the Cabinet meeting. Michael Gove arrived early to help Mr Sunak prepare for his first PMQs
Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab walk into No10 Downing Street this morning
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt arrived for Cabinet this morning with Chief Whip Simon Hart, while Environment Secretary Therese Coffey arrived with immigration minister Robert Jenrick
Mr Cleverly said: ‘The Prime Minister and the Chancellor know they need to work quickly on this but they also want to get it right, so we’ll see what happens to that date.’
The fortnight delay will also allow the Office of Budget Responsibility to base its forecasts for UK finances on more recent economic conditions.
Meanwhile, gas prices have halved, crashing from £190 per megawatt hour last month to around £90 in international markets.
A spokesperson for the OBR said: ‘Had our forecast been published on October 31, it would have been based on market determinants, including for gas prices and gilt yields, from the early to middle part of October.
‘Postponing the date to November 17 means that we will take a later window for these market prices.’
It comes as Mr Sunak talked tough on the economy this afternoon as he made a fiery Prime Minister’s Questions debut against Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer.
Minutes after he revealed he and Mr Hunt had delayed the fiscal statement by three weeks, the new Prime Minister warned the opposition that he would not shy away from ‘difficult decisions’.
He also goaded Sir Keir over the profligate spending plans of previous Labour leaders, congratulating him on realising that ‘spending has to be paid for’.
But later his press secretary would not commit to keeping the triple lock – which ties rises in the state payments to the largest of inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary yesterday said: ‘That is something that is going to be wrapped up into the fiscal statement, we wouldn’t comment ahead of any fiscal statements or budgets.
‘But what I can say is he has shown through his record as Chancellor is that he will do what’s right and compassionate for the most vulnerable.’
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: ‘Rishi Sunak stood on a manifesto in 2019 on a pledge to keep the triple lock. Now he’s threatening that promise to Britain’s retirees.
‘With pensioners struggling under the Conservatives cost of living crisis, it’s clear that Rishi Sunak is not on their side.’
The fiscal statement due to be held on October 31 will now be on November 17, the the new-look Cabinet was told this morning.
Later, in a packed and noisy Commons chamber Mr Sunak and Sir Keir clashed over violent crime and the reappointment of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.
Mrs Braverman returned to the role on Tuesday, six days after resigning for breaking the ministerial code by sending Government documents to an ally via a private email account.
Mr Sunak admitted she had made ‘an error of judgment’ but defended bringing her back, before turning his guns on Labour as he sought to get on the front foot of the economy.
Earlier, he and Mr Hunt postponed a key financial announcement due to take place on Halloween to give them more time to ‘get under the bonnet’ of the nation’s broken finances.
Sir Keir kicked off PMQs by arguing the ‘Tories have crashed the economy’, adding ‘those with broadest shoulders must step up, does he agree?’
He said: ‘We can all see what’s happened here. He’s so weak, he’s done a grubby deal trading national security [over Mrs Braverman’s return] because he was scared to lose another leadership election. There’s a new Tory at the top but as always with them party first, country second.
‘Yesterday on the steps of Downing Street he also admitted what the whole country knows, the Tories have crashed the economy and now somebody has to pay for their mess. I say it shouldn’t be working people who’ve been hammered time and again by this lot, but those with broadest shoulders must step up, does he agree?’
Mr Sunak replied: ‘[He] talked about party first and country second, perhaps he could explain to us why it was a few years ago he was supporting the member for Islington North [Jeremy Corbyn].
‘My record is clear, when times are difficult in this country I will always protect the most vulnerable, that is the values of our compassionate party. We did it in Covid and we will do that again.’
The markets have been calmed by the replacement of Mr Kwarteng and Liz Truss in the top jobs, potentially giving the new team more time to play with.
But they are facing a serious task of how to find savings to fill in a black hole in the public coffers of up to £40billion.
Mr Hunt told broadcasters: ‘I want to confirm that it will demonstrate debt falling over the medium term which is really important for people to understand.
‘But it’s also extremely important that that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances.
‘And for that reason the Prime Minister and I have decided it is prudent to make that statement on November 17 when it will be upgraded to a full autumn statement.’
In a statement, a No10 spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister and the Chancellor agreed that the fiscal event would now take place on the November 17, and would be an Autumn Statement.
‘He (the Chancellor) said it is important to reach the right decisions and there is time for those decisions to be confirmed with Cabinet.
‘The Autumn Statement will set out how we will put public finances on a sustainable footing and get debt falling in the medium term and will be accompanied by a full forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
It came as the head of the International Monetary Fund backed Mr Sunak to steer Britain towards fiscal sustainability.
Kristalina Georgieva said today he was right to warn the public of difficult decisions ahead and welcomed what she said was Sunak’s clarity and constructive attitude that she knew from his time as finance minister.
She expects to speak to Mr Hunt in coming days.
‘The new Prime Minister comes with a platform that he has shaped during his days as a chancellor, and it is one of being very prudent in bringing fiscal discipline in the UK,’ she said in Berlin.
‘I listened carefully to him talking to the British people, and this is a message that should resonate across the world. These are tough times, and tough times require tough decisions.’
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said: ‘This delay risks leaving mortgage borrowers, pensioners and struggling families under a damaging cloud of uncertainty.
‘Rishi Sunak must confirm now that benefits and pensions will be up-rated in line with inflation, and there will be no cuts to our NHS and other crucial public services.’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had earlier hinted this morning that a delay could occur. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Obviously the date of that fiscal statement was originally set with no expectation of a change of prime minister. We’ve now had a change of Prime Minister.
‘Thankfully that’s happened very quickly, because nobody wants uncertainty.
‘But the Prime Minister was appointed less than 24 hours ago. He is in the process of forming a Government. He will want some time with his Chancellor to make sure that the fiscal statement matches his priorities.
‘Now, I don’t know whether that means that date is going to slip but, as you suggested, the current date is only a couple of days away.
‘The Prime Minister and the Chancellor know they need to work quickly on this but they also want to get it right, so we’ll see what happens to that date.’
When it was put to him that a delay would bring more uncertainty, Mr Cleverly said that ‘a short delay, in order to make sure that we get this right, I think that is not necessarily a bad thing at all’.
Last night the new PM plunged the knife in on Liz Truss with a pledge to ‘fix’ her ‘mistakes’ and win back the public’s ‘trust’.
The incoming premier addressed the nation from Downing Street after being asked to form a government by King Charles in the traditional ‘kissing hands’ ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
In a sombre speech, he warned of ‘difficult’ decisions to deal with the ‘profound economic crisis’ facing the country, saying he ‘understood’ that Britons were suffering. Rebutting jibes that he is too wealthy to identify with the struggles of ordinary people, he said: ‘I fully understand how hard things are.’
In a swipe at Boris Johnson, who dramatically pulled out of the Tory leadership battle on Sunday night, Mr Sunak said the ‘mandate’ from the 2019 election did not belong to any individual. He also stressed his government will have ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level’.
Mr Sunak then embarked on a Cabinet reshuffle, with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Brandon Lewis early casualties.
A slew of further Truss appointments followed them out the door, including some who had backed him for the leadership. They included work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith, education secretary Kit Malthouse and environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena. Meanwhile Tory Party chairman Jake Berry, a close ally of Boris Johnson, also quit.
The PM today faced his first Commons appearance as Prime Minister at lunchtime, as he begins the gruelling task of uniting his party and restoring the UK’s economic credibility.
Prime Minister’s Questions has been the first test of how unified the party is behind its new leader, after Mr Sunak used his first public address yesterday to brace the country for ‘difficult decisions’ as he criticised much of the legacy left behind by Miss Truss’s brief tenure.
‘Some mistakes were made. Not born of ill will or bad intentions – quite the opposite in fact. But mistakes nonetheless,’ he said.
‘I’ve been elected as leader of my party and your Prime Minister in part to fix them – and that work begins immediately.’
Volodymyr Zelensky and US President Joe Biden were among the first world leaders Mr Sunak spoke to last night.
The Prime Minister told the Ukrainian President that the UK’s support for the war-torn country would be as ‘strong as ever under his premiership’.
He also made time to speak with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, in a stark contrast with Miss Truss.
A No 10 source said that the new Cabinet ‘brings the talents of the party together’ and that it reflects a ‘unified party’.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hinted this morning that a delay could occur. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Obviously the date of that fiscal statement was originally set with no expectation of a change of prime minister. We’ve now had a change of Prime Minister’
Mr Raab, who was among several Sunak loyalists rewarded with key roles, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and won a return to Justice Secretary.
Elsewhere, Mark Harper was handed the role of Transport Secretary, while former education secretary Sir Gavin Williamson returned to Government as minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office.
Opponents and rivals took some spots too, with Penny Mordaunt kept in place as Commons Leader while Truss ally Therese Coffey became Environment Secretary.
There was also a return to his old role of Levelling Up Secretary for Michael Gove, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly both kept their jobs.
The most controversial appointment however came in the return of Suella Braverman to Home Secretary, only days after she dramatically quit the Government after being accused of breaching the ministerial code.
Mr Sunak, who earlier promised that his new Government would be one of ‘integrity’, immediately faced questions about the decision to re-hire Mrs Braverman as Labour accused the new PM of ‘putting party before country’.
Rishi Sunak puts his hope in a team of loyal backers (and a few surprises)… so who’s who in the new Prime Minister’s Cabinet?
Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister
Conservative MP Dominic Raab arrives for a meeting with newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street yesterday
Newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waves to members of the media before entering 10 Downing Street after delivering his first speech
The karate blackbelt and former Foreign Office lawyer will be given an opportunity to pick up where he left off under Boris Johnson, as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
A vastly experienced minister across the many departments, Mr Hunt replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor this month.
He put in a measured performance from the Commons despatch box as he tore up Miss Truss’s tax-cutting plans, calming the markets.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt stands outside 10 Downing Street yesterday as he is reappointed to the role
Mr Hunt, the longest-serving health secretary in British political history, keeps his job and remains in No 11 Downing Street.
Mrs Braverman is a leading figure on the Right of the party, and came out in support of Rishi Sunak during the latest leadership contest.
She returns as Home Secretary, a week after she was forced out of Government for breaking the ministerial code after emailing a sensitive document from a personal account.
Glad to be back: Suella Braverman strides out of No10 yesterday
Often outspoken, she recently blamed eco-protests across the country on ‘the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’.
Mr Cleverly retains his job as Foreign Secretary – one of the Great Offices of State – despite being an old ally of Boris Johnson. In fact, Mr Cleverly publicly endorsed Mr Johnson for PM in the latest leadership race and had previously been a staunch backer of Liz Truss.
Retaining former soldier Mr Wallace as Defence Secretary is likely to be an attempt to soothe the military community amid growing unease over defence spending. The Sandhurst graduate has been in post for more than three years, making him one of the longest-serving ministers to hold the same position.
Mr Barclay returns to his job in Government having previously been sacked as Health Secretary as part of Liz Truss’s reshuffle. He previously held the role for two months and was memorably interrupted by a heckler while giving an interview outside a hospital. Mr Barclay worked with Rishi Sunak at the Treasury during the pandemic. He will be expected to get a grip on NHS spending.
Minister Without Portfolio
Mr Zahawi earned a reputation during the pandemic as a safe pair of hands and skilled media performer. But the former vaccine minister’s magic touch well and truly deserted him during the two recent Tory leadership races after a series of loyalty flip-flops.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Mr Dowden now holds the most senior Cabinet position after the PM. The ex-Culture Secretary has been rewarded for his unwavering support during the leadership races. He quit as party chairman after taking responsibility for the Tories’ disastrous by-election defeats in two seats in the summer.
Grant Shapps who has been appointed Business Secretary after briefly being appointed as home secretary by ex-PM Liz Truss, leaves Downing Street
Mr Shapps is another to have served across multiple government departments, most recently as Home Secretary less than a week ago following the departure of Suella Braverman. He was a prominent figure during the pandemic as transport secretary.
Passed the test: Gillian Keegan is the new Education Secretary
Mrs Keegan is the fifth person this year to hold the position of Education Secretary. She spent a year as health minister before moving to the Foreign Office as part of MissTruss’s doomed premiership.
She was forced to apologise earlier this year for an ‘error of judgment’ after continuing a meeting with grieving fathers despite testing positive for Covid part-way through.
Penny Mordaunt has been appointed Britain’s Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
In a major humiliation, there was no big promotion for Miss Mordaunt, the former magician’s assistant who holds on to her position as Leader of the House of Commons.
She stood against Mr Sunak for the leadership this weekend, but pulled out at the last moment when it became clear she did not have the backing of enough MPs.
She appears to have paid the price for her failure to strike a deal with her rival.
Work and Pensions Secretary
Mr Stride is well known to Rishi Sunak, having managed his campaign to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. He publicly criticised Liz Truss’s ill-fated mini-Budget, saying it had put the Conservative Party’s reputation for managing the economy in jeopardy. The chairman of the Treasury Select Committee is a former president of the Oxford Union.
A big demotion on the face of it for ex-health secretary Miss Coffey, though the fact she remains in Government despite her support of Liz Truss suggests the PM was keen to appease his predecessor’s followers.
The self-confessed karaoke fan admitted she was ‘not the role model’ when it came to her own health after being questioned about her lifestyle.
She left Downing Street yesterday by announcing she was ‘going home to Defra’ – a department which she served in for three years from 2016.
The former Welsh Secretary is not exactly a household name. But he takes on one of the most significant roles in Government, responsible for ensuring discipline within the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
SIR GAVIN WILLIAMSON
Minister Without Portfolio
The former education secretary and master of the parliamentary arts and will attend Cabinet, a clear reward for his staunch backing of Mr Sunak’s campaign.
Other appointments yesterday: Michelle Donelan, Culture Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, International Trade Secretary, Mark Harper, Transport Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, David TC Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, Lord True, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords, Victoria Prentis, Attorney General, Jeremy Quin, Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Johnny Mercer, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Tom Tugendhat, Security Minister, Robert Jenrick, Immigration Minister, Andrew Mitchell, Minister for Development
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11359115/Rishi-Sunak-reconsiders-raising-taxes-slashing-public-spending-Jeremy-Hunts-delayed-budget.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Rishi Sunak reconsiders raising taxes and slashing public spending in Jeremy Hunt’s delayed budget