Jake Berry defends delay to benefits announcement
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The Conservative MP has waded into the bitter row threatening to split the party about whether benefits should be raised to match inflation. Mr Mercer uploaded a video message outlining his willingness to lose the Conservative whip rather than support a budget which did not contain a pledge to provide an inflation-matching uplift to benefit payments.
Mr Mercer told his followers in the social media post: “A hell of a lot of people who are using benefits are actually at work, right? So this idea you can just go and work more whatever it is for the birds.
“So what I can do is just make sure absolutely hold the government to account. I won’t vote for a budget that doesn’t see an uprising of benefits and Universal Credit in line with inflation as simple as that.
“If that means I get kicked out of the Tory Party fine.
“I’m here to represent people in Plymouth and that was always my premise of getting into politics.”
Liz Truss has stressed she must take a “responsible” approach to the public finances, refusing to rule out real-term cuts to benefits as she faces a Cabinet split and a fresh battle with Tory rebels.
The Prime Minister is refusing to rule out a return to austerity or say whether welfare payments will be increased in line with soaring inflation.
Critics who forced a U-turn over the plan to abolish the 45p tax rate for top earners are now stepping up pressure on the Government to confirm benefits will be raised.
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt has publicly backed increasing them in line with inflation so that people can pay their bills, warning many Tory colleagues have backed that before.
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Downing Street has not denied suggestions that Ms Truss could resist rebels’ pressure to instead increase benefits in line with earnings, which are far lower than inflation.
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng has already made a second change, of course, to reassure markets and Tory rebels by bringing forward his medium-term fiscal plan along with independent forecasts.
Ms Truss has committed to increasing pensions in line with prices but on benefits said “we have to be fiscally responsible”.
In response to Ms Mordaunt’s comments, the Prime Minister said no decisions had yet been made.
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During a visit to a construction site in Birmingham, she told broadcasters: “On the subject of benefits we have not yet made that decision.
“Of course, there will be discussions about the way forward on commitments like benefits.”
Asked if she was listening to the Cabinet minister, Ms Truss said: “I’m very clear that going into this winter we do need to help the most vulnerable.
“In addition to the energy price guarantee, we’ve also made sure the most vulnerable households have an extra £1,200 and this Government will always help people get on in life, whilst making sure the most vulnerable are protected.”
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