The Treasury Secretary was embroiled in a heated exchange with Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley over the government’s strategy to deal with rising costs in the UK. Inflation hit 9% in April, leaving Britons struggling with bills and rising National Insurance contributions. Ms Reid asked if the Treasury was now considering bringing back the Universal Credit hike as part of the extra aid Boris Johnson had pledged to help.
The uprising, which was originally introduced during the coronavirus pandemic, was scrapped last October.
Ms Reid said: “One of the things you did was you had a Universal Credit boost, £20 a week to help people through a really difficult time and that was the pandemic.
“Then it was taken out because apparently it was no longer needed. You could put it back on as households face fuel poverty and food inflation. Is that something you’re considering?”
The Treasury Secretary replied: “On Universal Credit, in December we made one of the biggest adjustments to the system since its launch in the form of a very significant change to what is called the taper rate, the rate at which benefits are withdrawn as people’s income increases.
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“That’s been reduced from 63p in the pound to 65p in the pound. That’s a tax cut worth an average of £1,000 for two million people.”
Ms Reid didn’t seem impressed with the response, though: “Since then inflation has gone up. People are facing energy poverty and food poverty.”
But Mr Clarke defended the government’s strategy, insisting ministers are keeping all options on the table to help Britons.
He said: “The principle is that it allows people to keep more of what they earn. And that’s a very important principle for us to stay behind.
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“Because every morning on this show we asked people like you these questions, talked about the different options, talked about the VAT, talked about the hike.
“We talk and talk and talk, and all we get, and we got it again from you this morning, is, ‘we’re doing our best, we’re looking at different options, we’ll make a decision. ‘
“When? When will you announce direct action to help people who can’t afford the electricity bill and who only have one meal a day and travel by bus for warmth?
“It’s all real, it’s happening there.”
Mr Clarke hit back: “We have announced a package of measures. We have already put in place this year [a package] worth £22 billion.
“You are suggesting that we sit idly by and we are not.”