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CHANCELLOR Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure from business leaders, charities and MPs from across the political spectrum to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
The clamour for action comes amid reports that the government is in chaos over differing opinions for imposing a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, which have seen their profits soar due to the high global prices of those fuels.
The levy would fund measures to help households with energy bills.
Downing Street has denied blocking the Treasury from introducing such a tax, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisting that Boris Johnson and the Chancellor are aligned on the issue.
He said that ministers are opposed to the measure, but that it has not been ruled out.
On Wednesday night, Mr Sunak appeared to acknowledge the need for further support for the poorest when he said that, “right now, we have a collective responsibility to help the most vulnerable in our society.”
He has previously said that providing households with more support would worsen the soaring inflation figures, which hit 9 per cent in April.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused ministers of acting like “headless chickens” and suggested that a windfall tax U-turn was likely.
He said it was a “practical step” that was “staring the Prime Minister in the face,” adding: “By dithering and delaying, he’s forcing people to struggle when they don’t need to do so.”
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said: “It’s another day of chaos, confusion and inaction in government on the cost-of-living crisis.
“A paralysed government, an out-of-touch Chancellor, a tin-eared Prime Minister and a country deeply suffering from their failure.
“Every day they delay is another day when they let down the British people.
“They must act now with a windfall tax on the oil and gas producers to provide real help to families facing rocketing energy bills.”
Confederation of British Industry director-general Tony Danker told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “You [Mr Sunak] have to help the hardest-hit now.
“Helping people with heating and eating bills will not fuel inflation.
“You need to stimulate business investment now. That’s not going to overheat the economy.
“It’s going to make sure that any downturn in our fortunes is short and shallow because growth is coming soon.”
Conservative former chancellor Norman Lamont called on the government to reinstate the £20 universal credit uplift to ease the crisis for the most vulnerable.
He told Radio 4’s World at One programme: “The top priority must be to give help to the most vulnerable, those who are struggling to feed themselves, to heat their homes.”
Policing Minister Kit Malthouse said the government is “intrinsically opposed” to a windfall tax, while adding that circumstances can at times warrant such a move.
He also said that he told officers not to turn a blind eye to people stealing food from shops out of desperation after a police watchdog suggested discretion should be used during the cost-of-living crisis.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper MP criticised Mr Malthouse’s comments and said that Chief Inspector of Constabulary Andy Cooke “knows what he is talking about.”
She said: “While the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit families across the country, ministers should be listening to these concerns rather than trying to shout them down and should take the action we need to support people through this crisis.”
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary George Eustice claimed that wage rises for the lowest paid are among the factors contributing to food price inflation.
Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “This amounts to victim-blaming, pure and simple.
“It beggars belief that a minister would even try to point the finger at low-paid workers for the cost-of-living mess.
“For a government that crowed about raising the minimum wage to now turn its fire on those on rock-bottom wages is astonishing.
“Its time would be better spent helping struggling households.”
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