Starmer demands Truss confirm who will pay for energy bills package at her fiery debut PMQs

The central argument in British politics as Liz Truss takes office is not about whether to freeze energy bills - but about who should pay, as Anushka Asthana reports

Liz Truss has gone head-to-head with Sir Keir Starmer over her plans to tackle the energy crisis as she made her debut appearance at Prime Minister's Questions.

With her newly-assembled Cabinet by her side, the new PM received a grilling over how exactly she intends to fund her energy rescue package.

The leader of the opposition wasted no time in demanding to know who will "foot the bill" and accused Ms Truss of leaving families and businesses out in the cold, struggling to afford eye-watering energy costs for "decades to come".

Ms Truss confirmed she is still against a windfall tax, just hours after her new Cabinet met for the first time on Wednesday morning, where they began hashing out plans for an emergency package.

The new prime minister told the Commons she will take "immediate action" to help households and that plans to do so will be announced on Thursday morning.

Opening the showdown, the leader of the opposition congratulated Ms Truss on her appointment and went straight for the jugular, asking "did she mean it" when she said on the campaign trail that she was against a windfall tax.

Ms Truss replied that she hopes that she and Sir Keir "can work together particularly on areas we agree on" such as the UK's response to Vladimir Putin's war in Ukraine.

She continued: " I am against windfall tax. I believe it's the wrong thing to be putting companies off investing in the United Kingdom just as we need to be growing the economy."

Sir Keir highlighted that, according to the Treasury's calculations, energy companies are set to make £170 billion in excess profits over next two years.

Calling for her to back Labour's plans of an energy price freeze, he said it "won't be cheap" but insisted energy companies should be losing out on earnings, not the public.

He said: "The real choice, the political choice, is who is going to pay?

"Is she really telling us that she's going to leave these vast excess profits on the table and make working people foot the bill for decades to come?"

Ms Truss said if taxes are put up and raised to the same level as France, it will put off investors.

"The right honourable gentleman is looking at this in the wrong way," said Ms Truss to cheers.

"The last time we cut corporation tax we attracted more revenue into the Exchequer because more companies wanted to base themselves in Britain, more companies wanted to invest in our country."

Political Editor Robert Peston sets out what we can expect to see from Liz Truss as PM

Sir Keir went on to accuse her of protecting the profits of Shell and giving Amazon a tax break rather than helping families and public services.

He said there is “nothing new” about Ms Truss who “nodded through every decision that got us into this mess” and accused her of "re-heating George Osborne's failed corporation tax plans - protecting oil and gas profits and forcing working people to pay the bill."

Ms Truss snapped back: "Well there is nothing new about a Labour leader calling for higher taxes". "He doesn't understand aspiration, he doesn't understand that people want to keep more of their own money," she added about Sir Keir.

In a bruising attack, the SNP's Hannah Bardell asked Ms Truss if she was going to be as "useless and corrupt as her predecessor".

She asked how Ms Truss was planning to help constituents like the one on her patch, whose energy prices are going to go from £7,00 to £37,000 a year.

How could people facing such bills have "any faith that she can tackle the oncoming humanitarian crisis," probed Ms Bardell.

The MP continued: "Is she going to come out of her den in number10 and take real action, or be as useless and corrupt as her predecessor who has rocketed off to somewhere in the Pacific?"

The Chamber erupted into roars, before Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle scolded the MP and urged her to withdraw the comments.

"Sometimes the truth hurts but I'm happy to withdraw it," she replied.

Throwing her support behind her successor, former PM Theresa May turned the heat away from the Tories and asked why it is "that all three female prime ministers have been Conservative".

"There doesn't seem to be the ability in the Labour Party to find a female leader, or indeed a leader who doesn't come from north London," Ms Truss shot back to roars of laughter, including from Sir Keir himself.

In her first speech as prime minister on Tuesday, Ms Truss had assured the nation "we can ride out the storm" as she set out three key priorities that she planned to focus on straight away.

They were: growing the economy, dealing "hands-on" with the energy crisis, and working on the record NHS backlog.

The energy crisis has remained at the top of Ms Truss's agenda since she entered office and has dominated her talks with international leaders.

The situation was discussed with German Chancellor Olaf Sholz on Wednesday, No 10 said.

A No10 spokesperson said: "Both agreed on the importance of energy resilience and independence.

“The Prime Minister underlined the importance of ensuring democracy and freedom were upheld in Europe, and of protecting countries made vulnerable by Russia’s economic blackmail."

The Northern Ireland Protocol was also discussed, something that Ms Truss wants to reform against the EU's wishes.

Ms Truss's brutal Cabinet reshuffle saw Rishi Sunak supporters booted out, as she made way for friend Therese Coffey to become health secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor, Suella Braverman as home secretary and Jacob Rees-Mogg as business and energy secretary.

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