Philip Hammond Urges Colleagues To Focus On 'Job In Hand' Amid Tory Tensions

Philip Hammond Urges Colleagues To Focus On 'Job In Hand' Amid Tory Tensions

Chancellor Philip Hammond has lashed out at Cabinet rivals who briefed against him, accusing them of trying to undermine his efforts to secure a "softer" Brexit deal.

As tensions at the top of the Government spilled out into the open, Mr Hammond warned fellow ministers to focus on "the job in hand" rather than leak details of confidential discussions.

His outburst followed a report in The Sunday Times that he had told the weekly meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday that public sector workers were "overpaid" when their pensions were taken into account.

The paper said it had five sources for the story, the latest in a series of hostile briefings against the Chancellor, which threatened to fuel growing public anger over the Government's continuing 1% public sector pay cap.

The row came amid reports of senior ministers such as Boris Johnson and David Davis jockeying for position in anticipation of a Tory leadership contest in the wake of last month's general election which left Theresa May gravely weakened.

A clearly angry Mr Hammond linked the briefings against him to his attempts to prioritise jobs and the economy in the Brexit negotiations, to the obvious irritation of hardline Brexiteers like Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary.

"I think on many fronts it would be helpful if my colleagues, all of us, focused on the job in hand," the Chancellor told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show.

"If you want my opinion, some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda which I, over the last few weeks, have tried to advance of ensuring that we achieve a Brexit which is focused on protecting our economy, protecting our jobs, and making sure that we have continued rising living standards in the future."

He was backed by First Secretary Damian Green, effectively Mrs May's deputy, who warned against any attempt to mount a leadership challenge.

"There are a lot of very serious things going on the world and now is absolutely not the time for this type of activity," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Pienaar's Politics.

"Talk of leadership challenges is completely overblown and completely the wrong thing for the country.

"The last thing anyone wants is for the Conservative Party to turn in on itself."

Mr Hammond refused to be drawn on whether he had said public sector workers were overpaid, but acknowledged he had made the point that they enjoyed a pension "premium" over their private sector counterparts.

"When you take into account the very generous contributions public sector employers have to pay in for their workers' pensions, their very generous pensions, they are still about 10% ahead," he said.

His comments drew a furious response from public sector unions who accused him of being "completely out of touch" with the concerns of workers.

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: "The care worker hurrying from house to house doesn't feel overpaid, nor does the hospital cleaner working round the clock, or the teaching assistant going the extra mile for the children she supports.

"They are all low paid, all vital, and all in need of a pay rise now. The Chancellor's remarks are nothing short of offensive.

Despite the briefings, Mr Hammond said there was now an acceptance among senior ministers that there would have to be a period of transition after the UK leaves the EU in 2019 to avoid a "hard landing" for business.

"I think most people are willing to accept a transition so long as it is of a limited duration," he said.

"We are not going to be talking a couple of months. I think we are going to be talking a couple of years."


What's Hot