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Liz Truss’s cost of living plans ‘clear as mud’, claims Rishi Sunak’s team

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 10/08/2022 Jack Maidment
Liz Truss - Lindsey Parnaby/LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images © Lindsey Parnaby/LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images Liz Truss - Lindsey Parnaby/LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP/Getty Images

Liz Truss has been accused by Rishi Sunak’s campaign of performing a U-turn on her cost of living support plans after she refused to rule out bringing forward more targeted support for struggling families.  

The Foreign Secretary’s team has been forced on the defensive after she suggested last week that there would be no “handouts” if she won the leadership contest and that her priority would be to reduce the tax burden. 

But on Wednesday, she failed to rule out unveiling extra support if she wins the race for Number 10.

She insisted tax cuts would be her main focus, but said she would “do all I can” to ensure the nation gets through the winter. 

Her comments will be viewed as a hint that she would agree to extra financial assistance for households if the situation with rising energy bills demanded it. 

Mr Sunak’s team later accused Ms Truss of performing a U-turn, claiming her position was “as clear as mud”. The former chancellor has already made a commitment to bring forward new financial support if he becomes prime minister.

Ms Truss has promised to use an emergency Budget to “hit the ground running” and “pave the way to economic growth” by delivering immediate tax cuts if elected. 

On Tuesday, she was asked what further cost of living support she could bring forward, but refused to be drawn.

James Cleverly, one of the Foreign Secretary’s supporters, said on Wednesday that she “will look at support packages for the people that need it most”.

His comment was seen as a firming up of Ms Truss’s position and an apparent confirmation that she would agree to give more direct support to families. 

Speaking at lunchtime, the Foreign Secretary stressed that she was not ruling out more direct support, saying: “That is not what I said. What I said is my priority is making sure we are not taking money off people and then giving it back to them later on.

“I believe in people keeping their own money, and I believe in a low tax economy. That is the way we are going to drive growth.

“I am not going to announce the contents of a Budget in the future at this stage in August, but I can assure people I will do all I can to make sure that energy is affordable and that we get through this winter.”

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Mr Sunak’s team claimed that looked like “another major U-turn”, and said Ms Truss “urgently needs to clear up her position”. A campaign spokesman said: “Liz Truss’s policy on the number one issue facing the country is as clear as mud.”

But Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and a supporter of Ms Truss, defended her decision not to set out in detail now how she would help families.

He tweeted that “the Government is working up a package of cost of living support” that the next prime minister can consider once in post.

“It is absolutely right to consider these options in the round when the new prime minister has taken office, rather than announce new un-costed policies, without sight of all the details of the pressures people could face, during a leadership election,” he added. 

It came as Lord Howard, the former Tory leader and a supporter of Mr Sunak, described Ms Truss’s tax-cutting plans as “suicidal” and claimed they could lead to a Labour government.

He argued that Mr Sunak’s plan for more targeted support represented the best way forward, telling the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “Many people compare the current period with the 1970s, and there are many similarities.

"Anthony Barber, who became chancellor after the tragic death of Iain Macleod, cut taxes and increased borrowing, which is exactly what Liz Truss is proposing. The outcome ... was higher inflation, even higher inflation, more and more borrowing, recession, inevitably leading to a Labour government.”

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