April 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

Budget 2024: Jeremy Hunt says 'I will only cut taxes responsibly'

Budget 2024: Jeremy Hunt says 'I will only cut taxes responsibly'
  • Written by Becky Morton and Laura Kuenssberg
  • BBC Politics

Video explanation,

Hunt: We will only cut taxes in a responsible way

Treasury Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to move towards cutting taxes, but would only do so in a “responsible way”.

He told the BBC it would be “unconservative” to cut taxes by increasing borrowing.

Hunt is under pressure from some Conservative MPs to cut taxes in Wednesday's Budget, ahead of the general election which must be held by January.

It is believed that a further reduction in National Insurance will be among the measures being considered by the Chancellor.

In an interview on the BBC's Sunday program with Laura Kuenssberg, Hunt said the budget, when the government sets out its tax and spending plans, would focus on “long-term growth”.

He said he also hopes to “show a path” toward a low-tax economy.

“We have been very consistent that we will only reduce taxes in a responsible and prudent way,” he said.

“The most conservative thing I can do is reduce taxes by increasing borrowing.”

Overall, the amount of tax people pay is still on track to reach record levels, despite the National Insurance headline rate being cut from 12% to 10% in last year's autumn statement.

Hunt has repeatedly hinted that he wants to cut taxes further in the Budget, but has indicated in recent weeks that there is likely to be less scope than he had hoped.

With just 72 hours to go before the budget, Hunt was in a state of daunting expectations.

At the start of this year, the Government's independent economic forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), estimated that the Chancellor had around £30bn of “availability” for budget spending, after borrowing costs fell sharply.

Since then, borrowing costs have started to rise again, and by the middle of last month, the BBC understands the figure had returned to its November level of almost £13bn.

With the government's spending rules, the Office for Budget Responsibility holding its neck tight on one side, and a Tory backbench who wants to cut historically high taxes, this is not a comfortable position.

However, there is widespread expectation in Westminster that he will cut some taxes, even if the moves are not significant.

Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Darren Jones, said: “The Chancellor of the Exchequer says he wants to cut taxes, but it was the Conservatives who raised taxes to their highest level in 70 years.”

“No matter what the Chancellor does in the Budget this week, Labor will be worse off thanks to 14 years of Tory failure.”

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), told the BBC that any tax cut in the budget is “likely to be reversed after the next election, whoever wins”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies also warned that further tax cuts would likely mean spending cuts in the future.

Asked whether the government should spend more on public services, rather than tax cuts, Hunt said: “I think what most people want is better public services and a lower tax burden.”

“The only way we have a chance of achieving something like this is to spend the money we spend on public services more efficiently.”

Stunted economic growth

Andy Haldane, former chief economist at the Bank of England, told the program he believed the government's self-imposed spending limits – known as “fiscal rules” – were “holding back” economic growth and restricting the chancellor's decisions.

These include access to debt as a proportion of the size of the declining economy over five years.

Hunt said he disagreed with the government needing to change its financial rules because “people will interpret that as Britain losing control of its finances.”

Recent memories of the collapse in financial markets following Liz Truss's mini-Budget in 2022 – which included £45bn of unfunded tax cuts – are a reminder of why such rules exist.

But there appears to be growing concern that a system meant to ensure stability could also have a negative impact.

Other than dom

People who do not have non-resident status are UK residents who live abroad for tax purposes. Under the current system, they do not have to pay UK tax on money they earn abroad.

Hunt has previously defended the tax status, saying it helps make the UK an attractive place for wealthy people to live and work.

Labor has pledged to scrap non-resident status and spend the money raised on schools and the NHS.

If Labor backs any tax cuts announced by the Chancellor, which they are expected to do, it will leave questions about how some of their spending pledges will be financed.

Hunt declined to comment on any potential changes to specific taxes.

However, he told the BBC: “The country sees through the tricks and we will not be doing the tricks on Wednesday.”

See also  French MPs approve controversial immigration reforms