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Rishi Sunak suggests more tax cuts are on the way – but refuses to commit to triple lock manifesto pledge | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has suggested more tax cuts are on the way because the economy has “turned a corner”.

The prime minister told reporters that while he would not comment on specifics, trimming taxes was “the direction of travel from this government”.

But it came as he refused to say if the pensions triple lock would be in the next Conservative Party manifesto – despite Downing Street insisting in September that it was “committed” to the policy.

Mr Sunak’s comments echo similar remarks by his ministers in recent weeks.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also said last month that the economy had “turned a corner” just before he unveiled a cut to National Insurance in the Autumn Statement.

However, four million people could also end up paying higher taxes if their wages rise after the government decided to continue the freeze on tax thresholds.

Reports suggest the Conservatives are considering additional cuts in 2024 as the party tries to woo voters and reduce Labour’s 20-point lead in opinion polls ahead of the next general election, which must take place by January 28 2025.

Cuts to stamp duty and inheritance tax are among the options reportedly being looked at by ministers.

When asked about the two policies, Mr Sunak said: “I would never comment on specific taxes. But what I will just say, though, is we have turned a corner.

“We have got inflation down, as I said we would, we have grown the economy and we are now focused on controlling spending and controlling welfare so we can cut taxes. So when we can do more, we will.”

He added: “We want to grow the economy, we want to reward people’s hard work and aspirations and cut their taxes responsibly. That is the direction of travel from this government.

“If you want controlled public spending, controlled welfare and your taxes cut, then vote Conservative.”

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Mr Sunak was unable to make similar promises about the triple lock, which ensures the state pension must rise every April by whichever is highest out of average earnings, inflation or 2.5%.

The policy has come under fire in recent months by critics who claim it has become too expensive and gives the government less financial “headroom” to deal with economic shocks.

Some senior Tories have called for it to be scrapped and Labour has refused to guarantee the triple lock will remain in place if it wins the next election.

While the government continued with the policy in its recent Autumn Statement, ensuring the state pension will rise by 8.5% in April 2024 to £221.20 a week, Mr Sunak refused to be drawn when asked directly if it would be in the next Tory manifesto.

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Analysis: Autumn Statement 2023

Speaking to journalists as he flew between the UK and Dubai for the COP28 summit, he replied: “[I’m] definitely not going to start writing the manifesto on the plane, as fun as that would be.”

Mr Sunak acknowledged there had been “some scepticism” about if policy was going to form part of the Autumn Statement, but said its inclusion had been “a signal of our commitment to look after our pensioners who have put a lot into our country”.

Pensions triple lock adds £11bn a year to public spending – report | Politics News

The triple lock for state pensions has led to an extra £11bn being spent on the benefit per year, new research has shown.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said state financial support to pensioners was greater as a result of the policy, and payments would be 11% lower if it had not been adhered to.

But it said the cost could reach anywhere between an additional £5bn and £45bn a year by 2050 due to the uncertainty created by the terms of the triple lock – making it difficult for the public or government to plan for the future.

The manifesto commitment by the Conservatives means the state pension must rise by either average earnings, inflation or 2.5% every April – with the policy committing to whichever figure is the highest.

It was introduced by the Coalition government in 2010 and was designed to ensure people’s pensions were not impacted by gradual rises in the cost of living over time.

Both the Tories and Labour have said they are committed to keeping the pledge after the next general election.

But critics of the policy say it costs the Treasury a fortune and it is unfair on people of working age who are facing rising prices amid the cost of living crisis.

If the triple lock is kept in place indefinitely, the state pension could potentially be worth between £10,900 to £13,400 per year in today’s terms by 2050, the IFS estimated.

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Tory governments have stood by the triple lock

The triple lock has only been frozen once due to the impact of COVID on wages, which would have led to an 8% hike in state pension payments in April 2022.

However, last April, payments rose by over 10% due to record levels of inflation when the decision was taken the previous autumn.

The IFS said it expected next week’s earnings growth figures to be the metric for the next triple lock pledge, as the most recent figure was 8.2% – higher than both inflation and the 2.5% minimum set by the government.

‘Real risks’ for future if triple lock continues

IFS research economist and one of the authors of the report, Heidi Karjalainen, issued a warning alongside the findings, saying: “The triple lock makes it especially hard to know how much you might receive from a state pension and how much the state pension will cost the state in the future.

“An additional real risk is that retaining the triple lock for too long increases state pension spending so significantly that it leads to insurmountable pressure for a much higher state pension age.

“This would particularly affect people with poorer health who struggle to remain in employment until they reach state pension age.”

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A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said the government remained committed to the triple lock policy.

They added: “As is the usual process, the secretary of state will conduct his statutory annual review of benefits and state pensions in the autumn, using the most recent prices and earnings indices available.”

By-elections: Rishi Sunak faces triple blow as polls close in three seats – including Boris Johnson’s old constituency | Politics News

Polling stations have closed in by-elections that could deliver a triple blow to Rishi Sunak – with the Liberal Democrats already claiming victory in one seat.

The results from Uxbridge and South Ruislip in west London, Selby and Ainsty in North Yorkshire, and Somerton and Frome in Somerset, are expected in the early hours of Friday morning.

The three seats were left empty by outgoing Conservative MPs – former prime minister Boris Johnson, Nigel Adams, and David Warburton, who has been an independent since last year.

Follow by-election coverage live: Tories expect to lose all three by-elections, Sky News told

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Lib Dems declare victory

According to political editor Beth Rigby, Mr Sunak‘s party are bracing to lose all three constituencies.

Mr Johnson had a majority of 7,210 when Uxbridge and South Ruislip was last contested at the general election in 2019, with Labour coming in second place.

Selby and Ainsty saw Mr Adams elected in the same year with a majority of over 20,000, again with Labour as the runner-up.

And Mr Warburton’s seat of Somerton and Frome saw him get a 19,213 majority in 2019, though it was the Liberal Democrats who came the closest to him.

A Conservative spokesperson said they knew the votes were always going to be “very challenging”, especially “given the circumstances in which they were brought about”.

It is common for sitting governments to perform poorly in by-elections, but it is also common for parties to talk down their chances, so they can frame a positive result as an unexpected success.

The Liberal Democrats claimed victory in Somerton and Frome before midnight – although of third of ballots were still waiting to be counted – overturning a majority of close to 20,000.

Christine Jardine, MP for Edinburgh West, told Sky News: “We’ve won this quite decisively, the Conservative vote is just collapsing, and I think that’s indicative of how people here feel about how the government has let them down over the past five years.”

She added that the Lib Dems are experiencing a “new period of growth” and they have “romped home”.

Did Labour fail to manage expectations in Selby and Ainsty?

Sam Coates

Sam Coates

Deputy political editor


Of the three by-elections, the result in Selby and Ainsty – a Labour vs Conservative contest – is the most interesting.

I’m hearing both sides hope they’ve won it – it’s going to be close.

A Tory loss would mean Labour overturning the biggest ever Tory majority at a by-election – a record last set in 1990 in Mid Staffordshire.

I’m stunned Labour didn’t do better expectation management – they allowed the (Tory) idea to take hold that a win was priced in.

They didn’t push back at this very hard.

Now they’re having to admit they don’t know.

A Labour spokesman said they “don’t know if we’ve made it over the line” in the other two seats – but claimed that “Keir Starmer’s leadership of a changed Labour Party, back in the service of working people, has seen voters put their trust in us”.

While the cost of living was the main factor in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, local factors – specifically the ULEZ expansion – understood to have dampened Labour support in the seat, with party insiders believing the vote could still go either way.

Labour MP Steve Reed told Sky News at the Uxbridge and South Ruislip count that he was “not going to predict” which was the vote would go – and claimed the election was “always going to be close”.

Former Conservative minister Sir Robert Buckland told Sky News he reckoned his party will lose all three votes.

He said: “Being realistic and frank, if, as I expect, we don’t do well tonight we need to reflect on that.

“I think it’s going to be a difficult night for us.”

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‘Likely’ all three seats lost

Ballot boxes began to be opened and votes counted from 10pm.

Results are not expected until the small hours of the morning at the earliest – especially if the results are close.