Truss makes grovelling apology for mini-Budget shambles at PMQs


Liz Truss offered a grovelling apology for the mini-Budget shambles at a brutal PMQs today as Tory MPs warned her position is ‘untenable’. 

A clearly-rattled premier admitted she was ‘sorry’ and had ‘made mistakes’ as she tried to take the sting out of the atmosphere in the Commons chamber.

But despite Keir Starmer joking that she will be ‘out by Christmas’ after her ‘fantasy economics ended in disaster’, Ms Truss insisted she will not resign. ‘I am a fighter not a quitter,’ she said, echoing a famous line from Labour’s Peter Mandelson.

The clashes came as inflation surged back into double-digits with food prices heaping more pain on hard-pressed Britons.

The government had been hinting that pensioners faced real-terms cuts as part of a desperate £40billion spending squeeze – but Ms Truss tried to kill off the issue by declaring she will stick to the triple lock. ‘I am completely committed to it, so is the Chancellor,’ she said as Jeremy Hunt watched from beside her on the the green benches.

However, she pointedly stopped short of making the same promise on uprating benefits, another area where Tories are threatening to revolt.

And she is facing a huge showdown on fracking later, with whips trying to cool a rebellion by declaring it a confidence vote. 

Ms Truss told MPs: ‘I have been very clear that I am sorry and that I have made mistakes.’

Amid shouts of ‘resign’, she added: ‘The right thing to do in those circumstances is to make changes, which I have made, and to get on with the job and deliver for the British people.’

Former Cabinet minister Sajid Javid had been slated to ask a question at PMQs, but apparently pulled out at the last minute. As the session began reports emerged that Ms Truss’s senior aide Jason Stein has been suspended pending an investigating into briefing. There was a vicious barb at Mr Javid over the weekend claiming he was not offered the Chancellor job because the PM regarded him as ‘sh**’.

The PM’s press secretary said this afternoon: ‘I am not going to get into individual staffing matters but the Prime Minister has made very clear to her team that some of the sort of briefings that we have seen are completely unacceptable about parliamentary colleagues and they must stop.’ 

The cost-of-living crisis is the stark backdrop for a crisis at Westminster as Ms Truss desperately battles to cling on after being forced to sack ally Kwasi Kwarteng and ditch the disastrous mini-Budget that triggered havoc on markets. Steve Double has become the sixth MP openly to call for her to go, while 1922 committee chief Graham Brady is believed to have informed the premier that more than 50 Tories have privately sent him no-confidence letters.  

PMQs today was only Ms Truss’s third since entering No10 and come just a week after she insisted there would ‘absolutely not’ be spending cuts. Mr Hunt – who has been branded the ‘de facto PM’ – now says cuts will be ‘eye-watering’. 

There is also shaping up to be a huge showdown over fracking this evening, with government whips warning that a Labour Opposition day motion on maintaining the ban is a ‘confidence’ issue.

Deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker has sent a round-robin message to MPs saying they must vote against the motion, adding: ‘I know this is difficult for some colleagues but we simply cannot allow this.’  

Mr Hunt will address the 1922 committee tonight in another sign of his growing influence. 

In more body blows for Ms Truss today:

  • Social care is the latest flagship policy at risk, with rumours that Mr Hunt will delay the implementation of the vaunted cap by at least a year to save cash;
  • Bank shares have fallen after it emerged ministers are mulling another windfall tax on profits of banks and energy giants, despite Ms Truss previously saying she was against the idea on principle;
  • Ms Truss has had to abandon her Schools Bill to avoid a row over bringing back grammar schools; 
  • Labour’s stance on the pensions triple-lock is mired in confusion after frontbencher Lisa Nandy suggested the party cannot commit to it; 
  • Michael Gove has told a private meeting that Britain is going through ‘hell’ and Liz Truss will be ousted as PM after her entire policy was ‘shredded’; 
  • Friends have said Boris Johnson is ‘enjoying himself’ as he holidays in the Dominican Republic with wife Carrie and their children;   
  • Tories are pushing for a takeover by a ‘quad’ of Hunt, Mordaunt, Sunak and Ben Wallace;

Liz Truss offered a grovelling apology for the mini-Budget shambles today at a brutal PMQs as Tory MPs warned her position is 'untenable'

Liz Truss offered a grovelling apology for the mini-Budget shambles today at a brutal PMQs as Tory MPs warned her position is ‘untenable’

Inflation has rocketed this year.  The rate of Consumer Price Index inflation rose to 10.1% in September from 9.9% in August, the Office for National Statistics has said. Last month’s inflation rate was 0.1% higher than expected.

Food and drink inflation is one of the biggest factors in the latest rise. Figures are in %

Food and drink inflation is one of the biggest factors in the latest rise. Figures are in %

Food and drink inflation is one of the biggest factors in the latest rise. Figures are in % 

The cost of food in the UK is now at its highest inflation level since 1980

The cost of food in the UK is now at its highest inflation level since 1980

The cost of food in the UK is now at its highest inflation level since 1980

Transport costs such as fuel are falling but the majority of goods and services continue to rise

Transport costs such as fuel are falling but the majority of goods and services continue to rise

Transport costs such as fuel are falling but the majority of goods and services continue to rise

Now Liz Truss could U-turn over a windfall tax: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt considering raiding profits of banks and energy giants to fill spending black hole 

Liz Truss could be bumped into yet another embarrassing U-turn as new chancellor Jeremy Hunt considers a new windfall tax on banks and energy giants. 

The PM ruled out a punitive levy against gas companies during her leadership campaign and reiterated her position as recently as last week.

But Mr Hunt is now said to be considering unveiling a new tax on October 31 to help fund a massive fiscal black hole when he announced his spending cuts, the Financial Times reported.

Earlier this week Mr Hunt told the Commons he was ‘not against the principle’ of windfall taxes – which have a high level of support among the general public – and refused to rule out such a move.

Banks have been added to the ranks of energy firms because of the extra cash they are making due to higher interest rates, the FT said. 

 Lloyds Banking Group and Natwest Group Plc led losses among bank stocks after the story broke. The UK’s banking index was down 0.6 per cent, while the investment banking & brokerages index dropped 1.6 per cent.

Official figures released this morning showed the headline CPI rate reaching 10.1 per cent in September, up from 9.9 per cent the previous month and matching the 40-year high that it hit in July.

The grim figure was driven by a huge 14.5 per cent annual rise in food costs, and came despite petrol prices coming down slightly. 

It is more than eight percentage points higher than the Bank of England’s target and will put pressure on the Monetary Policy Committee to hike interest rates by 1 percentage point when it meets in a fortnight.

Reacting to the news, Mr Hunt said the government will ‘prioritise help for the most vulnerable’ and take action to stabilise the economy.

But the soaring CPI seems to have triggered a rethink in Downing Street over the triple lock on pensions. The rule increases payments in line with the highest out of the September inflation rate, earnings or 2.5 per cent. 

Lifting pensions in line with earnings rather than prices from April would have meant the elderly getting £434 less a year, saving the Treasury around £4.5billion. 

Benefits are also typically increased in line with the September inflation figure, but using an earnings figure is still on the table.

Tories have vowed to revolt if Mr Hunt tries to press on with either of the moves in his Halloween Budget – with resistance going as far as the Cabinet.

The CPI increase was driven by food prices, leaping by 14.5 per cent compared with the same month last year, representing the largest annual rise for 40 years. But transport costs, including fuel, are finally falling. 

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: ‘After last month’s small fall, headline inflation returned to its high seen earlier in the summer.

‘The rise was driven by further increases across food, which saw its largest annual rise in over 40 years, while hotel prices also increased after falling this time last year.

‘These rises were partially offset by continuing falls in the costs of petrol, with airline prices falling by more than usual for this time of year and second-hand car prices also rising less steeply than the large increases seen last year.

‘While still at a historically high rate, the costs facing businesses are beginning to rise more slowly, with crude oil prices actually falling in September.’

Mr Hunt said: ‘I understand that families across the country are struggling with rising prices and higher energy bills. This Government will prioritise help for the most vulnerable while delivering wider economic stability and driving long-term growth that will help everyone.

‘We have acted decisively to protect households and businesses from significant rises in their energy bills this winter, with the Government’s energy price guarantee holding down peak inflation.’

In a round of interviews, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said ministers ‘take manifesto commitments incredibly seriously’ but refused to say the vow on pensions would be kept.

He criticised colleagues for their ’emotional response’ to the extraordinary U-turns and said he was ‘far from convinced’ kicking out Ms Truss would help.

He told Sky News: ‘The people who are criticising the Prime Minister, and I get why people are frustrated, you know, we look at poll numbers – of course it’s disconcerting if you’re a member of the Government.

‘But my contention is the best way of addressing those poll numbers is to demonstrate to the British people that we are focused on their priorities, that we’re delivering on their behalf.

‘And if we do that, those numbers will head in the right direction instead of the wrong direction.’

He added: ‘What I’m not convinced by – far, far from convinced by – is that going through another leadership campaign, defenestrating another prime minister, will either convince the British people that we’re thinking about them rather than ourselves, or convince the markets to stay calm and ensure things like those bond yields and gilt yields start coming back down.

‘Being angry, again, I totally get it. But that’s an emotional response, it’s not a plan.

‘And the Prime Minister’s got a plan, the Chancellor’s got a plan.’

But former minister Steve Double cautioned Ms Truss is in the ‘last chance saloon’ and will likely have to stand down ‘quite soon’.

The MP for St Austell and Newquay told Times Radio: ‘I think her position is becoming increasingly untenable.

‘I think it’s becoming abundantly clear when you look at the loss of confidence in her as Prime Minister from the general public, and increasingly I think the loss of confidence in her from the parliamentary party, that we are going to get to the point where she really does have to consider her position and for the good of the country, step aside, and I think we will probably come to that place quite soon.’

Gloucester MP Richard Graham was among the Tories who voiced reservations about fracking policy ahead of a crunch vote today

Gloucester MP Richard Graham was among the Tories who voiced reservations about fracking policy ahead of a crunch vote today

Gloucester MP Richard Graham was among the Tories who voiced reservations about fracking policy ahead of a crunch vote today

The cost-of-living crisis is the stark backdrop for a crisis at Westminster as Liz Truss (pictured today) desperately battles to cling on after being forced to sack ally Kwasi Kwarteng and ditch the disastrous mini-Budget that triggered havoc on markets

The cost-of-living crisis is the stark backdrop for a crisis at Westminster as Liz Truss (pictured today) desperately battles to cling on after being forced to sack ally Kwasi Kwarteng and ditch the disastrous mini-Budget that triggered havoc on markets

The cost-of-living crisis is the stark backdrop for a crisis at Westminster as Liz Truss (pictured today) desperately battles to cling on after being forced to sack ally Kwasi Kwarteng and ditch the disastrous mini-Budget that triggered havoc on markets

Ms Truss went out for a run this morning as she prepares for another gruelling day in the House of Commons

Ms Truss went out for a run this morning as she prepares for another gruelling day in the House of Commons

Ms Truss went out for a run this morning as she prepares for another gruelling day in the House of Commons 

Tory MPs have been issued with a three-line whip over Labour’s fracking motion this afternoon, and warned it is being seen as a ‘confidence motion in the Government’.

Deputy chief whip Craig Whittaker wrote to Conservatives telling them it is a ‘100 per cent hard 3 line whip!’

‘We cannot, under any circumstances, let the Labour Party take control of the order paper and put through their own legislation and whatever other bits of legislation they desire,’ he said.

‘We are voting NO and I reiterate, this is a hard 3 line whip with all slips withdrawn.’

The Government amendment is also a three-line whip, he said, adding: ‘I know this is difficult for some colleagues, but we simply cannot allow this.’

However, Gloucester MP Richard Graham was among the Tories who voiced reservations. He tweeted: ‘Today is an opportunity for the govmt to confirm either that our position on fracking is either as per the 2019 manifesto moratorium or that any proposal must have local support = a positive vote by a full second tier/unitary council, with planning permission decided locally.’ 

In his emergency statement on Monday, Mr Hunt warned of decisions of ‘eye-watering difficulty’ to plug the Government’s multibillion-pound financial black hole.

He is considering a year delay to the cap on how much people pay for care in old age, according to The Times.

Treasury sources did not deny the claim, pointing to the Chancellor’s words that ‘nothing is off the table’.

Although £32billion of the mini-Budget tax cuts have now been reversed, the OBR watchdog is said to have identified a £72billion black hole in the public finances – leaving another £40billin to be dealt with, depending on borrowing costs.  

An admission from Downing Street that Ms Truss could ditch the key manifesto commitment to increase state pensions in line with inflation sparked a swift backlash.

A YouGov poll of Tory members published yesterday found that most want her to resign

A YouGov poll of Tory members published yesterday found that most want her to resign

A YouGov poll of Tory members published yesterday found that most want her to resign

Energy costs have been driving the surge in CPI inflation, but experts warn the pressure has been becoming embedded in the economy

Energy costs have been driving the surge in CPI inflation, but experts warn the pressure has been becoming embedded in the economy

Energy costs have been driving the surge in CPI inflation, but experts warn the pressure has been becoming embedded in the economy 

Many countries have been hit by the inflation shockwave from the war in Ukraine, although only Germany has a higher level than the UK currently

Many countries have been hit by the inflation shockwave from the war in Ukraine, although only Germany has a higher level than the UK currently

Many countries have been hit by the inflation shockwave from the war in Ukraine, although only Germany has a higher level than the UK currently 

Tory backbencher Maria Caulfield said she ‘will not be voting to end the pensions triple lock’, with former minister Steve Double joining her in saying: ‘Nor me.’

Stephen Crabb, the former work and pensions secretary, told the Telegraph it is ‘not the time to consider abandoning the triple lock’ and that ‘maintaining the value of the state pension during the cost-of-living crisis is essential’.

However, the Prime Minister reiterated her pledge to boost defence spending after the armed forces minister publicly threatened to resign if it was broken.

She said she stood by her promise in a meeting with Tory MPs from the European Research Group (ERG) – one in a series of gatherings aimed at shoring up her ailing position.

ERG chairman Mark Francois described the meeting on Tuesday evening as ‘positive’, and said: ‘We were delighted to hear her make an unequivocal commitment to spending 3% of GDP on defence by the end of the decade.’

The Prime Minister also told the group that she found axing her tax-slashing programme ‘painful’ and did it ‘because she had to’, according to her deputy press secretary.

After Ms Truss later hosted a reception for a selection of Tory backbenchers in Downing Street, one of the attendees said her position remains ‘precarious’.

Clacton MP Giles Watling told BBC Newsnight: ‘Of course it’s precarious, she knows that, we all know that.’

Former Cabinet minister Michael Gove said it was a matter of time before Ms Truss is ousted as Prime Minister as he warned Britons to expect ‘a hell of a lot of pain in the next two months’.

Asked at a private event on Tuesday whether it was no longer a question of whether Ms Truss goes, but when, Mr Gove agreed that was ‘absolutely right’, the Guardian reported.

But Welsh Secretary Sir Robert Buckland warned colleagues considering removing Ms Truss to ‘be careful what you wish for’.

‘The more the Conservative Party change leaders, the stronger the case for a general election becomes,’ the Cabinet minister told BBC Newsnight.

‘I say to my colleagues, be careful what you wish for. An early election serves nobody any good, not least the Conservative Party and certainly not the country.’

A meeting between Mr Hunt, who is widely seen as effectively in control, and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbenchers, likely fuelled further questions about the Prime Minister’s future.

Treasury sources said it was a briefing ahead of Mr Hunt’s 1922 appearance on Wednesday, but it is likely that Ms Truss’s imperilled premiership came up.

One of the factors keeping Ms Truss in office, despite being forced to abandon the economic platform that got her elected as party leader, is the lack of an obvious successor.

Could ministerial ‘quad’ replace Liz Truss? MPs suggest Jeremy Hunt, Ben Wallace, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt ALL take over – as Michael Gove says PM WILL be ousted … and party favourite Boris Johnson relaxes in the Caribbean 

Tory MPs have suggested a ‘quad’ of four senior ministers replace Liz Truss as the party struggles to line up a single successor who can unite the party.

Backbenchers have suggested that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor Rishi Sunak, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt could come together to run the Government. 

But they admitted this might be a problem, with talks between several of the quartet yet to get off the ground amid reports they cannot agree on what roles to take.

Mr Hunt and Mr Wallace have distanced themselves from running to be replacement PM, while Ms Mordaunt’s allies are said to have failed to recruit Mr Sunak to be her chancellor because he wants to be PM. 

One Tory MP told the i newspaper that ‘no one can get their egos in check,’ but an ex-minister insisted: ‘We are edging towards the dream scenario. Jeremy is a stable chancellor, with Penny and Rishi and possibly a Boris continuity figure like Ben Wallace, forming a quad who can command some respect. They can each keep their troops in line and we knuckle down.’

It came as former minister Michael Gove said that Ms Truss’s days are numbered. 

In remarks reported by the Guardian he told an event: ‘The question for any leader is what happens when the programme or the platform on which you secured the leadership has been shredded.’ 

It came after a poll found yesterday that more than half of Tory members want her to quit, with Boris Johnson the favourite to take over. 

A bombshell YouGov survey revealed four in five party activists thought the PM was doing a bad job and 55 per cent were convinced she should go, compared to just 38 per cent who backed her staying. 

Her predecessor Mr Johnson was the preferred option as a replacement, with 32 per cent supporting him as first choice while 23 per cent said Rishi Sunak and 10 per cent Ben Wallace.

Backbenchers have suggested that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor Rishi Sunak, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt could come together to run the Government

Backbenchers have suggested that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor Rishi Sunak, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt could come together to run the Government

Backbenchers have suggested that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, his predecessor Rishi Sunak, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) and Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt could come together to run the Government

Mr Hunt and Mr Wallace have distanced themselves from running to be replacement PM, while Ms Mordaunt's allies are said to have failed in a bid to recruit Mr Sunak (pictured) to be her chancellor, because he wants to be PM

Mr Hunt and Mr Wallace have distanced themselves from running to be replacement PM, while Ms Mordaunt's allies are said to have failed in a bid to recruit Mr Sunak (pictured) to be her chancellor, because he wants to be PM

Mr Hunt and Mr Wallace have distanced themselves from running to be replacement PM, while Ms Mordaunt’s allies are said to have failed in a bid to recruit Mr Sunak (pictured) to be her chancellor, because he wants to be PM

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt

Penny Mordaunt

Penny Mordaunt

One Tory MP told the i newspaper that ‘no one can get their egos in check,’ but an ex-minister insisted: ‘We are edging towards the dream scenario. Jeremy is a stable chancellor, with Penny and Rishi and possibly a Boris continuity figure like Ben Wallace, forming a quad who can command some respect. They can each keep their troops in line and we knuckle down.’

Boris Johnson remains on holiday in the Caribbean with his family

Boris Johnson remains on holiday in the Caribbean with his family

Boris Johnson remains on holiday in the Caribbean with his family

Boris Johnson was the preferred option as a replacement, with 32 per cent supporting him as their first choice, while 23 per cent said Rishi Sunak and 10 per cent Ben Wallace

Boris Johnson was the preferred option as a replacement, with 32 per cent supporting him as their first choice, while 23 per cent said Rishi Sunak and 10 per cent Ben Wallace

Boris Johnson was the preferred option as a replacement, with 32 per cent supporting him as their first choice, while 23 per cent said Rishi Sunak and 10 per cent Ben Wallace

Mr Johnson’s former aide Andrew Gilligan told LBC today that the former prime minister is on holiday in the Caribbean but would be watching with interest.

‘He’s probably enjoying himself quite a lot. I saw a poll of Tory members that showed he’s the most popular candidate to replace Liz Truss. He’s got to be looking at those numbers with interest,’ he said.

Ms Truss and Mr Hunt have been warned not to betray older Britons by failing to keep a promise to increase the state pension by more than 10 per cent.

The Government is considering ditching a promise to increase pensions in line with inflation due to the squeeze on public finances following the mini-budget fiasco.

Under the policy, from April next year the state pension and benefits would increase by 10.1 per cent, the figure for consumer price index inflation in September.

But Downing Street said the commitment to increase pensions in line with inflation – confirmed as recently as October 2 by the Prime Minister – was now under review.

Campaigners warned that failing to keep pensions in line with rising prices would be ‘devastating’ and a ‘flagrant breach of trust’.

In response to the announcement of September’s inflation figures on Wednesday, Mr Hunt did not refer to the pensions promise but instead said help would be targeted at the most vulnerable.

The Tory manifesto in 2019 committed to the triple lock, which guarantees the state pension will increase in line with the highest figure of average earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent.

Ms Truss, who is battling to save her premiership after the mini-budget and the subsequent U-turns, would face a potentially fatal revolt from Tory backbenchers if she sought to ditch the promise and instead linked pension and welfare payments to earnings rather than the higher inflation figure.

Mr Hunt said: ‘I understand that families across the country are struggling with rising prices and higher energy bills.

‘This Government will prioritise help for the most vulnerable while delivering wider economic stability and driving long-term growth that will help everyone.’

The triple lock had been temporarily suspended for 2022-23 because earnings soared as people returned to work from furlough and coronavirus restrictions, but it was expected to be restored before inflation soared.

Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said the rate of inflation ‘only strengthens the case for reinstating the triple lock’ and warned Ms Truss that breaking the promise would be ‘devastating for the millions of older people who rely on the state pension’.

She said: ‘Knowing their state pension would keep pace with rising prices because of the triple lock has given precious hope to many older people at a time of great anxiety. For the Government to take that away from them now would be a hammer blow, as well as a flagrant breach of trust.’

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that each percentage point increase in inflation would add £2.4billion a year in pension and welfare spending from April.

The Office for Budget Responsibility had estimated a 7.5 per cent inflation level, so the 10.1 per cent figure would add billions to plans for the welfare bill.

But the Resolution Foundation think-tank, which focuses on living standards, warned the Government against seeking a quick saving at a time when a ‘bleak outlook means that family incomes will continue to fall sharply again next year’.

The foundation said that linking increases to earnings – at around 5.5 per cent – rather than inflation would save £5.6billion next year if applied to pensioner benefits – state pension and pension credit – and a further £2.4billion if applied to working-age benefits.

But the think-tank’s senior economist Jack Leslie said: ‘While the significant Treasury savings may look tempting in the context of its attempts to fill its fiscal hole, the cost to 10million working age families and almost every pensioner would be huge amid the deepest cost-of-living crisis for half a century.’

The Chancellor is expected to set out his plans for pensions and benefits in his October 31 statement, but Tory MPs have warned they will not accept breaking the triple-lock promise to pensioners.

In a sign of potential dissent to come, Tory MPs Maria Caulfield and Steve Double declared they would not vote to end the triple lock.

‘Pensioners should not be paying the price for the cost-of-living crisis whether caused by the war in Ukraine or mini-budgets,’ Ms Caulfield tweeted.

Mr Double quoted her message, which stated clearly she would ‘not be voting to end the pensions triple lock’, with the caption: ‘Nor me.’

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said: ‘In the midst of this cost of living catastrophe, pensioners and those relying on benefits cannot be undercut and left to struggle further.

‘Liz Truss must act today to reassure the public and confirm in Parliament that pensions and benefits will rise to match inflation.’