Chancellor Jeremy Hunt delays key economic plan until November

ITV News Political Correspondent Carl Dinnen reports on Rishi Sunak's first PMQs as leader

The highly-anticipated financial statement has been delayed until November 17 as Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt refuse to rule out a series of painful changes.

The statement was originally brought forward by Mr Sunak's successor, Liz Truss, after her disastrous mini-budget had spooked the markets.

But Mr Hunt has since confirmed that he and the new PM had now jointly agreed to push back the announcement.

Both Mr Hunt and Mr Sunak have been pressed on a number of issues by the media in recent days to see if they will commit to previous spending promises.

It is thought the triple-lock pension mechanism, the commitment to spending 3% of GDP on defence, and raising benefits in line with inflation could all be ditched in order to fix the black hole in the public finances.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Hunt stressed that the government's number one priority is "economic stability and restoring confidence that the United Kingdom is a country that pays its way".

'It’s extremely important that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts'

He said: "And for that reason the medium-term fiscal plans is extremely important and I want to confirm that it will demonstrate debt falling over the medium term, which is very important for people to understand.

"But it’s also extremely important that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances.

"And for that reason the prime minister and I have decided that it is prudent to make that statement on the 17th of November, when it will be upgraded to a full Autumn Statement.

"And I’ve discussed this last night with the governor of the Bank of England - he understands the reasons for doing that and I’ll continue to work very closely with him."

Mr Hunt said he is willing to make “politically embarrassing” choices and insisted a “short two-and-a-half week delay” to his statement is the best course of action.

"I’ve demonstrated in the short time that I’ve been chancellor that I’m willing to take decisions very quickly and I’m willing to make choices that are politically embarrassing if they’re the right thing to do for the country, if they’re in the national interest," he added.

“Now we have a new prime minister and the prospect of much longer-term stability for the economy and the country."

It comes after Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had warned the government might delay the announcement, so the PM could ensure it “matches his priorities”.

Mr Cleverly told said that any delay in making the fiscal announcement would be a "reflection of the fact that date was set by the previous prime minister".

Former chancellor Sajid Javid said the decision to postpone the fiscal announcement to November 17 was “sensible”.

Welcoming the move, he said: “Very sensible decision to delay and upgrade to a full Autumn Statement.”

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have hit out at the delay, arguing that it will create further “uncertainty”.

The party’s Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said: “This delay risks leaving mortgage borrowers, pensioners and struggling families under a damaging cloud of uncertainty.

“Rishi Sunak must confirm now that benefits and pensions will be uprated in line with inflation and there will be no cuts to our NHS and other crucial public services."

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