Hunt to take on Labour over tax in sign of election battles to come

Jeremy Hunt is promising further tax cuts if the Conservatives win the general election as he accuses Labour of “playground politics” over attacks on the historically-high burden being borne by households and businesses.

The Chancellor will pledge “taxes will go down under a Conservative government” and accuse his shadow, Rachel Reeves, of plotting hikes to fund Labour’s spending pledges.

He will restate his ambition to eliminate national insurance altogether – a measure which Labour has derided as an unfunded £46 billion pledge.

Under current plans, the overall tax burden is expected to rise over the next five years to around 37% of gross domestic product, close to a post-Second World War high, but Mr Hunt will say that was necessary to pay for the pandemic-era furlough scheme and the energy bill bailout.

Mr Hunt will say in a speech in London: “Labour like to criticise tax rises this parliament thinking people don’t know why they have gone up – the furlough scheme, the energy price guarantee and billions of pounds of cost-of-living support, policies Labour themselves supported.

“Which is why it is playground politics to use those tax rises to distract debate from the biggest divide in British politics – which is what happens next.

“Conservatives recognise that whilst those tax rises may have been necessary, they should not be permanent. Labour do not.”

He will say that “the lower-taxed economies of North America and Asia generally grow faster than the higher-taxed economies of Europe”.

The Conservative are “prepared to do the hard work” to bring down taxes “because we know doing so will lead to more growth”.

Mr Hunt will stress that the Tories’ “ultimate aim” is to continue cutting national insurance until it is eliminated, but only “when it is affordable to do so”.

“But with no plans to pay for their spending pledges, taxes will go up under any future Labour government as sure as night follows day,” Mr Hunt will say.

“And taxes will go down under a Conservative government because we will do the hard work necessary to keep our economy competitive.”

Shadow Treasury financial secretary James Murray said: “There is nothing Jeremy Hunt can say or do to hide the fact that working people are worse off after 14 years of economic failure under the Conservatives.

“The tax burden is at a 70-year high and the average household is forecast to be £870 worse off under Rishi Sunak’s tax plan.

“Now Jeremy Hunt is desperately trying to distract from reality with his reckless £46 billion unfunded tax plan to abolish national insurance.

“It is time for change. Labour will deliver economic stability with tough spending rules, so we can grow our economy and keep taxes, inflation, and mortgages as low as possible.”