Hunt accuses Labour of spreading 'fake news' and 'scaring pensioners'

The chancellor delivered a speech with the words "Labour's tax rises" behind him. Credit: PA

Jeremy Hunt has accused Labour of spreading "fake news" and "scaring pensioners" over its suggestion that the government's plans to scrap national insurance tax could jeapordise pension pots.

In a speech in Westminster which was centred on a criticism of Labour's economic plans, the chancellor spoke with the words "Labour's tax rises" in red letters behind him.

After branding Labour's economic plans a "myth", he was then asked whether he was accusing the party of lying: “Calling them a myth is about as rude as I get, but frankly it is a lie.

"A disgrace", "a myth", "a lie": Jeremy Hunt criticises Labour's tax plans

“I don’t make any bones about it. It is fake news and it is an absolute disgrace to try and win this election by scaring pensioners about a policy that is not true”, he said.

"And when it comes to taxes on pensioners, I would just say to every pensioner in the country - which is the party in British politics that wants to bring down the taxes that you and everyone else pays, and which is the party we know will increase them?"

Mr Hunt said that while the Tories have cut national insurance, which pensioners do not pay, they have also increased the state pension.

At his Spring Budget the chancellor announced he would like to scrap national insurance tax altogether, but that it was a "long-term" ambition. Labour say this commitment is a "£46bn unfunded tax cut".

On Thursday Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was asked "why do you hate pensioners?" by Loose Women panellist Janet Street Porter.

The ITV show panellist said "pensioners have come out worse under the Tories".

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"That is the only conclusion I can come to as a result of the Spring Budget. You lowered National Insurance by 4p - big deal, pensioners don't pay NI", she said.

The PM insisted "I care deeply about pensioners", stressing "it was a Conservative government that introduced the triple lock".

Mr Hunt also mentioned in the speech that the 4p cut to National Insurance will save the average earner £900 a year, a statement which has been repeatedly fact-checked when made by the PM on social media platform X.

Rishi Sunak's posts promoting his NI cuts have been labelled false four times by the Community Notes feature on X. The function targets potentially misleading posts by adding context underneath them.

Quoting fact-checkers Full Fact, Community Notes said the posts fail to make clear that £900 is the "combined effect" of two separate 2p cuts to NI, amouunting to a 4p cut.

It added people earning less than £26,000 "will be worse off" thanks to the government's taxation policies.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the average earner will actually save £340 from each cut, rather than £450, thanks to fiscal drag.

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Asked during the speech whether Britain’s economic woes are now in the rear view mirror, the chancellor said: “The truth is that I do think we have turned a corner.”

He added that it would take time for that “to feed through to how people feel”.

“In a general election, people are very smart about making the choice that is the right choice for their family going forward … People can see that Conservative governments have done the right thing to create growth that means families will be more prosperous going forward.”

The speech focussed on drawing dividing lines with the Labour Party, with Mr Hunt inisting there is an “ocean of deep blue water” between the Conservatives and Labour.

The chancellor said: “On tax, jobs and welfare reform there isn’t just clear blue water between the parties, there is deep blue water, an ocean of deep blue water.

“That is the difference between more jobs or fewer jobs, more people on welfare or fewer, tax cuts or tax rises, more growth or less growth.

“In short, a prosperous future or a poorer one.”

A Labour spokesperson said: “This is another desperate attempt by the Tories to deflect from their £46 billion unfunded tax plan that could lead to higher borrowing, higher taxes on pensioners or the end of the state pension as we know it.

“All of Labour’s policies are fully costed and fully funded. Unlike the Conservatives, who crashed the economy, Labour will never play fast and loose with the public finances.

“Jeremy Hunt would be better spent getting Rishi Sunak to confirm the date of the election, rather than putting out any more of these dodgy dossiers.”

Earlier this month Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves accused the government of "gaslighting" people over the state of the economy.

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