PMQs: Johnson's 'dithering' over cost-of-living crisis costing public extra £53m

·5-min read
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been criticised for their response to the cost-of-living crisis
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have been criticised for their response to the cost-of-living crisis

BORIS Johnson has been warned his “dithering and his delay” to tackle the cost-of-living crisis has added £53 million to householders’ soaring bills.

Labour leader Keir Starmer pressed the Prime Minister over an “inevitable” U-turn to back his party’s plans for a windfall tax on oil and gas giants.

Reports suggest the UK Government could be pondering imposing a windfall tax on energy giants, including renewables producers, to help ease the pressure on fuel bills ahead of an expected further £800 rise in October.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, Sir Keir said: “Hundreds of millions of pounds have been added to bills of families across the country, and hundreds of millions of pounds have landed in the bank accounts of energy companies.

“It sounds like he’s finally seen sense and the inevitable U-turn may finally have arrived. So when can people across the country expect him to use those oil and gas profits to bring down their bills?”

In response, Mr Johnson claimed there “is nothing original about a Labour plan to tax business”.

He said: “They want to tax business the whole time, every day Labour wants to put up taxes on business.

“What we’re doing is we’re helping people. He asks when we’re going to help people, we’re helping people now. And we’re putting £22 billion into people’s pockets already, cutting council tax by £150, cutting fuel duty, cutting national insurance contributions by an average of £330…”

He added: “How can we afford that? Because we have a strong economy, because we came out of Covid fast, which would not have been possible if we had listened to the party opposite.”

The Labour leader told MPs that while the PM is “distracted” scrambling to save his own job over partygate and the Sue Gray report, householders have been facing rising energy bills.

He said: “The reality is that every day of his dithering and his delay, £53 million has been added to Britain’s household bills.

“Whilst he is distracted trying to save his own job, the country has been counting the costs, but complacency is nothing new for this Government.”

Sir Keir added: “Back in October, the Chancellor delivered a mini budget that has to be reread to be believed. With inflation already climbing, he said that he understood people were concerned about it and the Government was ready to act.

“Since then, inflation has risen to a 40-year-high. The highest rate of any G7 country. If the Government was so ready to act six months ago, why hasn’t it?”

But Mr Johnson claimed “the Government has acted” and “the Chancellor continues to act” to ease the pressure on the cost-of-living crisis.

He added: “This is the Government that not only put in the living wage, which was a Conservative institution, but we have now raised it by a record amount, we raised it by £1,000, a record amount.

“We have helped people, families on Universal Credit have another £1,000.

“And of course, we are going to do more. We are going to put our arms around the people of this country just as we did throughout the Covid pandemic.”

Sir Keir pressed the Prime Minister over what “attracted” him to consider a change of heart on agreeing to a windfall tax as the Sue Gray report was published.

He said: “Fifteen tax rises and they pretend they are a low-tax Government. I “t’s been four and a half months since Labour first called for a windfall tax on oil and gas profits… every week he has a new reason for not doing it.

“He ordered all his MPs to vote against it last week, and now, surprise surprise, he’s backing it. Prime Minister I’m told that hindsight is a wonderful thing… whilst he dithered and delayed households across the country suffered when they didn’t need to.

“What is it about the Sue Gray report that first attracted him to a U-turn this week?”

The Prime Minister responded: “There is no surprise about Labour’s lust to put up taxes. There is nothing original about… they get on it. They absolutely love to confiscate other people’s assets.

“What we prefer to do is make sure that we have the measures that are in place to drive investment in our country and drive jobs."

But Sir Keir accused the PM of being "the last person to spot the cost-of-living crisis".

He said: "Just as he is the last person to back Labour’s plan to help people through it.

"And it wasn’t just on inflation that they got it badly wrong. In the same speech, the Chancellor boasted about growth. The Prime Minister does today. How we were going to do better than all our major competitors.

“It was obvious that he was being complacent. And lo and behold, Britain is set to have the lowest growth of any major country except Russia.

"Despite our brilliant businesses and all we have to offer, why has his Government inflicted on Britain, the twin-headed Hydra of the highest inflation and the lowest growth.”

The Prime Minister replied: “Because the steps we took last year we had the fastest growth in the G7 and we will return to the fastest growth by 2024-2025."

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