Brandon Lewis grilled by host on Liz Truss' tax cut plans
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The Tory leadership frontrunner vowed to get a grip on the Treasury to make it deliver the bold economic reforms the country needs to thrive. And she hit back at rival Rishi Sunak after he launched a savage attack on her upbeat approach, saying it was time to stop “talking down our country” and insisting she is “completely unapologetic” about having an optimistic vision. In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Express, Ms Truss declared “I’m ready” to enter No 10.
The Foreign Secretary pledged to deliver from day one for everyone in the country as a tough winter approaches.
She set out a blueprint for transforming the economy, making sure opportunities are spread across the country and driving out anti-social behaviour.
Ms Truss said immediately cutting the 1.25 percent national insurance hike and temporarily suspending the green levy on energy bills will help people deal with the very high costs they are facing.
She added: “I am an optimist about the future of this country.
“I believe the best days are ahead of us. And I think by keeping taxes low, attracting business investment into this country, getting those post Brexit reforms done … that is the way we are going to succeed, not by talking down our country.”
Mr Sunak today attacked his opponent’s economic plans claiming they will not “touch the sides” when it comes to helping struggling households.
The former Chancellor accused Ms Truss of “starry-eyed boosterism” over her approach to the challenges the country is facing.
Ms Truss responded: “I’m not making any comments about other candidates in the race but the fact is there are too many people in the establishment of this country who want to talk our country down.
“And I think we’re a great country. I think we’ve got great potential, and we need to unleash it but the best way of doing that is by being on the side of people who work hard, who do the right thing, who set up their own businesses, who travel into work every day.
“That’s why I would legislate to make sure we’re providing essential services and our railways not allowing the militant trade unions to dictate what train lines are open.
“And yes, I believe that we can do better and we can grow our economy.”
She added: “I’m completely unapologetic about being optimistic and I’ve been travelling around the country over the last few weeks and what I see is a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm.
“A lot of people who want their areas to be successful, who want businesses to locate in their areas and those are the people I want to back.”
Ms Truss insisted you “can’t tax your way to growth” and allowing people to keep more of their own money along with attracting businesses and investment to the UK is what is needed to drive up growth.
In a swipe at Mr Sunak, she said the Treasury under his leadership had failed to focus enough on economic growth.
She said: “Frankly, there’s been too much Treasury orthodoxy and whether it’s on making sure investment is fair across the country, we need to do more to level up that investment, whether it’s on economic growth, I don’t think the Treasury has been sufficiently focused on economic growth.”
Axing red tape will “help free up tens of billions” of investment into our economy, Ms Truss insisted.
“The fact is, they haven’t happened for the last two and a half years. And I will get going on that straightaway to make sure we’re opening up those opportunities.
“In every job I’ve done in government I have got things through Whitehall, regardless of any resistance. We’ll make sure Treasury resistance doesn’t get in the way.”
Ms Truss said the country does face difficult economic times following the shock of covid and the invasion of Ukraine.
“So now is not the time for business as usual. We do have to do things differently. We do have to be bold, but I know we’re capable of that. I know that we’ve risen to the challenge before and will rise to the challenge again. And that’s what I’m about, rising to that challenge,” the Cabinet minister insisted.
She said the situation Britain is facing means it is vital everyone pulls together.
“Now is the time that we need to join together as a country, a move forward to boost our economy, to support the most needy in society, but to also make sure that we’re backing people who set up their own businesses who work hard who are self employed, because those are the people who are going to be making sure that we are able to boost our economy, boost our success as a nation and ultimately deliver the opportunities for the future.
“I want us to be an aspiration nation and I know we can be.”
Ms Truss will cut taxes within weeks of entering No 10 if she wins the leadership race.
But longer term she is committed to reviewing the tax system to make it simpler and fairer, including tax on pensions, inheritance tax and the ways carers can end up being penalised for taking a break from work.
She said: “It’s even more complicated than the American tax system, which is pretty bad. And it’s not fair on families.
“I want to make sure that people who take time out of work to look after elderly relatives or look after children aren’t unfairly penalised by the system.
“Business rates are a drain on small businesses, I want to make that system better as well.
“There are all kinds of problems within this. Everything from the tax on pensions and the way that operates to inheritance tax.
“I want to have an overall review of the tax system but my aim will be to make it simpler and fairer.
“But what I won’t do is wait for that review to take place. We need to get on immediately with lowering the tax burden because it is too high. And we need to do all we can to get the economy going and to get growth going.”
Ms Truss backed Boris Johnson from the start and remained loyal to him when other ministers quit his government.
She said: “He did a great job as Prime Minister, he delivered Brexit, he delivered on the Covid vaccine and also he has delivered on supporting Ukraine.
“We are where we are. That’s the fact of the matter. But felt it was the right thing to do to be loyal to him and say stay doing my job as Foreign Secretary.”
The leadership hopeful vowed that if she is chosen as the next Prime Minister she will lead a government that “gets things done and delivers what people voted for”.
“When they voted for us in 2019 they didn’t vote for us because they wanted labour policies. “A lot of people voted Conservative for the first time because they wanted new opportunities in their area, new enterprises in their area,” she said.
“They wanted to get on in life and that is what we have to deliver.”
Ms Truss insisted she is a “can do person” and promised she will improve all corners of the country.
She said: “I’ve got a plan for economic growth. I’ve got a plan to level up all of the United Kingdom, everywhere from Barking and Dagenham, to Stoke on Trent to Cornwall.
“All of these places will benefit from lower tax, less regulation, more investment and more opportunities.”
An ally of Ms Truss said Mr Sunak’s plans would put Britain on a “road to recession”.
The source said: “Rishi’s plan is to borrow more and keep taxes high, and that’s not what members want or what the country needs. It’s a road to recession. Liz’s plan helps people by reducing the taxation burden and gets our economy moving.
“He’s changed his position on cost of living two or three times in the space of a few weeks. First we had Mr Consistent and ‘no fairytales’ … then U-turns on VAT and income tax … and now he’s desperately chasing votes by talking about handouts. How can members trust that?”
It comes as a new poll show Ms Truss three per cent ahead of Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and six per cent ahead of Mr Sunak when voters were asked who would make the best Prime Minister.
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