Jeremy Hunt was accused of being a “21st century Fagin” this morning as he was skewered over the autumn statement.
The chancellor yesterday claimed he had announced the biggest tax cuts since the 1980s after slashing National Insurance and business taxes.
But it was also confirmed that the overall tax burden will increase to a new post-war high by the end of the decade.
On Sky News this morning, presenter Kay Burley compared Hunt to the fictional pickpocket in the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist.
She told him: “I heard you described this morning by someone as I was coming in as a ’21st century Fagin’, picking pockets where you went. What would you say in response?”
The chancellor insisted insisted the government “had to put taxes up” during the pandemic to pay for things like the furlough scheme, as well as tackle the cost of living crisis.
“I’ve been very honest that when you do those things you need to pay for them,” he said. “Now the economy has done much better than anyone thought ... I also think it’s right to make a start in bringing down taxes.”
According to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility, the amount of extra tax a year the Treasury rakes in will hit £44.6 billion by 2028/29, driven mainly by increases in income tax.
That is because the income thresholds at which people begin paying higher rates of income tax have been frozen, meaning that when their wages go up so does the amount they pay - a process dubbed “fiscal drag”.
Asked by Burley why he hadn’t increased the thresholds, Hunt said: “I could have done that, but what I chose to do was something that most people hadn’t heard of, which was to give businesses the most generous capital allowances of any major economy.”