'We'll look at all' cost of living measures says PM as Starmer warns windfall tax 'inevitable'
Time is running out to help the households whose budgets are at breaking point, as ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt reports
Boris Johnson has promised to "look at all the measures that we need" to address the cost-of-living crisis after Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer predicted an "inevitable" U-turn on a windfall tax.
The PM told Prime Minister's Questions his government would continue to "look after people" in the "aftershocks" of the coronavirus pandemic, as he cited figures which say unemployment is at its lowest level since 1974.
But high employment levels do not appear to have not alleviated pressures on struggling families, who are contending with the rocketing cost of essentials, soaring fuel prices, a National Insurance hike and the jump of around £700 in household energy bills.
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Inflation has hit a 40-year high of 9% - but the rate for the poorest families is even higher at 11%, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which says the less-well off are hardest hit "because they spend a large fraction of their budget on energy and food".
Labour says a windfall tax on the bumper profits of oil and gas giants could allow up to £600 in support for struggling families, but the Tories rejected it in a vote on Tuesday evening.
Analysis by Labour shows the expected profits of North Sea oil and gas firms in 2022/23 are "higher than the combined rise in energy bills for every household in the UK".
The chancellor said he's worried offering more help to the most vulnerable would increase inflation even further - could that happen? ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston explains
Sir Keir said "every single day North Sea oil and gas giants rake in £32 million in unexpected profits" as he predicted the government would bow to pressure on a windfall tax.
"Doesn't he see that every single day he delays his inevitable U-turn, he's going to do it, he's choosing to let people struggle when they don't need to," the Labour leader said.
Prime Minister Johnson replied: "He says that this government has no sympathy for people who are struggling and working....We're already helping people with the cost of living in any way that we can."
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He added: "I'm going to look at all measures in future to support, of course I am, but the only reason we can do that, the only reason our companies are in such robust health is because of the decisions that this government has taken."
Sir Keir said the PM "clearly he just can't make his mind up" on a windfall tax as he referenced the positions of several members of the Cabinet.
After listing Tory MPs and company bosses who support a windfall tax, he added: "And on the other side? The member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg), when he's not sticking notes on people's desks like some overgrown prefect is dead set against it."
The Labour leader was referencing the minister's move last month to leave notes on the desks of civil servants, urging them to get back to work.
Sir Keir added: "When is he finally going to get a grip, stand up for the people of Britain and get on the right side of the argument?"
Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have been resisting a windfall tax, saying it would deter investment from energy producers in the UK.
Labour has now forced a vote on an emergency budget, which it says should be used to announce measures to immediately help people with the cost of living.
The vote, in the form of an amendment to the Queen’s Speech - the government's legislative agenda for the year ahead - and will note it “fails to bring forward immediately” an emergency budget.
It will also urge ministers to set out a “new approach to the economy that will end twelve years of slow growth and high taxation” under the Tories.
Opening the final day of the six-day Queen’s Speech debate, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves will highlight the “unfair” tax system adding to the squeeze on wages.
“That’s why the Conservatives must back our motion today, not just for them to come forward with an emergency budget to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, but to set out the plan Britain deserves to get our economy firing on all cylinders,” she is expected to add.