One of Liz Truss’s key ministerial allies has hinted that she could stop wealthy people receiving the £400 energy bill payments coming from the Treasury later this year.
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, said he found it “quite strange” that high earners would benefit from the payments, which were announced in May by Rishi Sunak, the then chancellor, as part of a £15 billion energy support package.
Clarke was speaking in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph as a spokesman for the Truss campaign, which has over the past week revised its stance on energy bills and sought to quash suggestions that Truss is against targeting the most needy. User support.
Clarke was Sunak’s deputy in May when the Treasury announced that from October each household would receive the £400 payments, mostly paid in installments as rebates on energy bills. This was the universal element of a package which redirected most of the extra £15 billion available into payments for those most in need.
In his interview, Clarke said: “I think it’s quite strange that high earners are getting £400 off their bills. As Conservatives, we should clearly believe in targeting taxpayers’ money as best we can, so that we actually get the best possible value and keep the burden on the exchequer as low as possible.
– To put it mildly, it is not an ideal result that people who do not need it receive quite significant sums of money from the state. It’s not, frankly, a targeted package, is it?”
At the start of the Tory leadership campaign, Truss suggested that the main measures she would take as Prime Minister to help people with rising energy bills would be the reversal of the National Insurance increase and the temporary removal of green charges on energy bills.
Truss brushed aside complaints that these measures would not help those most in need – and that the cut in National Insurance would help high earners the most – and in an interview with the Financial Times this month she appeared to rule out lump sum payments for them. most needy. “I would do things in a conservative way to lower the tax burden, and not give out handouts,” she said when asked what she would do about the energy bills.
But that comment was seen as a mistake and within days Truss stressed she was offering people targeted support with energy bills. Clarke’s interview suggests the Truss campaign is trying to present itself as even more pro-targeted than Sunak, who is defending the £400 universal payouts.
Two of Truss’s key backers – the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith and Thérèse Coffey, the current work and pensions secretary – are reportedly urging her to use universal credit as a means of getting extra help with energy bills to those most in need .
The Truss campaigner has not said she would definitively stop wealthy people getting the £400 payments, or how it might be achieved. Universal payments are easy to manage; means that testing is much more complicated and best administered through the benefits system.
In his interview, Clarke attacked another of Sunak’s policies as chancellor – his decision to back the UK to a G7-backed plan for a minimum corporation tax of 15%. “There is no doubt that we did not come out of the EU to limit our discretion in such matters,” Clarke said.
Truss agreed, he claimed. “I know she would not allow her government to find itself artificially limited,” he said.