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Economy drives wedge between Sunak and Truss at latest Tory hustings

Foreign Secretary insists cutting taxes is key, but former chancellor say his rival’s plan won’t help pensioners and those on very low incomes.

11 August 2022

Economic policy once again drove a wedge between the two Tory leadership contenders as they took to the stage in the latest hustings for party members.

Rishi Sunak claimed that, without pledging further direct payments, his rival would leave pensioners and those on very low incomes at risk of “real destitution”.

But Liz Truss stood by her tax-cutting plans, warning against “Gordon Brown economics”.

She argued that increasing taxes would “choke off economic growth” and send the country to “penury”.

The Foreign Secretary wants to reverse the national insurance rise and planned hike in corporation tax, both of which were introduced by Mr Sunak as chancellor.

Asked whether she was for or against “handouts”, Ms Truss stressed that her “first preference” has always been to “reduce taxes”.

She previously hinted she would consider further support for struggling households if made prime minister.

With a dire new warning that energy bills could top £5,000 by the spring, the cost-of-living issue continues to dominate the exchanges in the battle to succeed Boris Johnson.

The two contenders faced further questions on the matter during the hustings on Thursday evening.

While Ms Truss said her “first preference” was to cut taxes, Mr Sunak warned the country “will never ever forgive us” if the Conservatives do not provide “direct support” to millions of pensioners.

He admitted that the Government will need to provide more help than he previously thought to assist vulnerable people with bills.

And he warned that Ms Truss’s tax plan would not help pensioners and people on “very low incomes”.

“No tax cut, and Liz’s tax plan, is not going to help those groups of people,” he said.

“So scrapping the health and social care levy, as she wants to do, is worth £1,700 to her on her salary.

“For someone working really hard on the national living wage, it’s worth just over a quid a week. And for someone who’s a pensioner, without any earnings, it’s worth zero.

“Now I want to provide direct support to those groups of people.”

Ms Truss previously denied that she had ruled out additional direct help for families struggling with soaring energy bills.

While she said her priority was to reduce taxes, she insisted she was committed to supporting working families through the winter.

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