Boris Johnson – 2022 Answers at Liaison Committee (Tax Cuts)

The answers given by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, at the Liaison Committee held in the House of Commons on 6 July 2022.

Darren Jones: Prime Minister, how is your week going?

The Prime Minister: Terrific, like many others.

Q99 Darren Jones: Did Michael Gove come and tell you to resign today?

The Prime Minister: I think I said earlier that I am here to talk about what the Government is doing. I am not going to give a running commentary on political events.

Q100 Darren Jones: Okay. Let’s talk about what the Government is doing. You have just said today that the Government is giving the biggest tax cut in a decade, but it is a tax cut to your own tax rise, isn’t it?

The Prime Minister: No, what it does is it gives 30 million people—by lifting the threshold, it gives them, on average, a tax cut of £330.

Q101 Darren Jones: Against the tax rise that you previously announced. In fact, freezing tax allowances for average income tax payers means that they are going to pay £46.8 billion more over the next four years. Tax is going up, not down, isn’t it?

The Prime Minister: It is certainly true that what we have had to do is make sure we deal with the fiscal impacts of covid. The Committee will remember that we had a colossal fall in output. We had the biggest pandemic for 100 years, and we had to look after people and businesses to the tune of £408 billion. That money doesn’t grow on trees. In order to protect our schools and hospitals, we of course have had to—

Darren Jones: Increase the tax levels.

The Prime Minister: We have had the health and care levy. What we are doing now is helping people with, on average, a £330 tax cut.

Q102 Darren Jones: Prime Minister, I asked about the tax cut that was announced today, but I will move on. Let’s look at the economy before the pandemic. You mentioned the pandemic—an event that was very difficult for the Government. Before the pandemic—between 2010, when the Conservative party came into office, and the pandemic—national debt increased by £640 billion. It is now at 100% of national wealth, and you keep announcing tax cuts and spending plans at the same time. Are you just going to keep putting more and more debt on to the nation’s credit card?

The Prime Minister: Sorry, you were just complaining about taxes going up.

Darren Jones: I am asking about what you are doing in government, Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister: You need to get your story straight.

Darren Jones: My facts are from the Treasury, Prime Minister. Debt is up.

The Prime Minister: We have to be sensible and we have to be responsible. We are making sure we manage the public finances in a prudent way, and I think that there will be scope for further tax cuts in due time.

Q103 Darren Jones: Maybe imminently. Prime Minister, can I move on to economic growth? You said yesterday that you welcomed your new Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, because he would grow the economy, presumably in a way that Rishi Sunak couldn’t.

The Prime Minister: I don’t think I said that. Anyway, go on.

Q104 Darren Jones: We are more likely to end up in a recession this winter, aren’t we?

The Prime Minister: As I was saying to Stephen, the economy and people are going to be under a lot of pressure, but I think we will get through it.

Q105 Darren Jones: Do you think there will be a recession in the winter?

The Prime Minister: I think there will be a lot of pressure caused by the price spike. We are going to do everything we can to shield people and deal with the underlying causes of inflation, whether that is through the energy markets, the labour markets or whatever. There is a lot that we can do, and I think we will emerge stronger on the other side.

Q106 Darren Jones: You and your supporters have often said that you have got all the big calls right as Prime Minister, but actually on tax, debt, growth and pay, things have been getting worse, not better. I understand that 14 million people voted for you in 2019; you have let them down, haven’t you?

The Prime Minister: No, I think that what they can see is a Government that gets on relentlessly with a programme of uniting and levelling up. We have the biggest investment in infrastructure for a century—£650 billion going in on all the things that Huw was talking about: roads, rail, transport of all kinds and housing. It is a colossally ambitious programme that we are still doing. At the same time, because, as you put it, Darren, we got the big calls right—

Darren Jones: I didn’t agree with that, by the way.

The Prime Minister: Well, I’m going to agree with it even if you don’t. We got the big calls right on covid. We came out of lockdown faster, and we got it right with the vaccine. That has put us in a position to look after people, and that is what we are doing.

Q107 Darren Jones: Thank you. I’m going to move on to my next question. I would like to read something out to you: “When a regime has been in power too long, when it has fatally exhausted the patience of the people, and when oblivion finally beckons—I am afraid that across the world you can rely on the leaders of that regime to act solely in the interests of self-preservation, and not in the interests of the electorate.” Who authored that quote?

The Prime Minister: You are trying me. Was it Cicero? Was it Aristotle? Let me think—was it Plato? Was it Montesquieu?

Q108 Darren Jones: Maybe Nero. Just to break it to you, it was you, Prime Minister. Perhaps it was foresight. I will finish, because I am about to run out of time. I made a joke there, but in all sincerity—I know this must be difficult for you personally—this isn’t funny. This is not a game. People are struggling across the country. It is not brave for you to carry on doing this. I think, in my view, you are hurting the country, Prime Minister. On a very human level, surely you must know that it is in the country’s interests for you to leave now.

The Prime Minister: I think the country is going through tough times. You are making a point about duty, right? I look at the issues this country faces, I look at the pressures that people are under and the need for Government to focus on their priorities—which is what we are doing—and I look at the biggest war in Europe for 80 years, and I cannot for the life of me see how it is responsible just to walk away from that, as I said earlier on in PMQs, particularly not when you have a mandate of the kind we won two or three years ago.