BBC Question Time Audience Calls Out Timing Of £400 Energy Bill Discount

"If the Sue Gray report hadn’t come out, we wouldn’t be getting this windfall tax."

Audience members on BBC’s Question Time have called out the “cynical” timing of the government’s emergency cost-of-living package.

On Thursday, chancellor Rishi Sunak bowed to pressure to hand every household a £400 energy bill discount in a move partly funded by a £5 billion windfall tax on oil and gas giants.

It was part of £15 billion of measures to tackle the impact of soaring inflation, which has reached a 40-year high.

But Tory ministers have spent weeks dismissing the need for the levy on the profits of energy companies, and not a single Conservative MP voted in favour of the policy when Labour put it to a vote last week.

The plan was unveiled a day after the publication of Sue Gray’s partygate report, which painted a damning picture of booze-fuelled lockdown partying into the early hours, cleaners having to scrub red wine off the walls, a fight between staff, and a karaoke machine at the ready.

On the BBC’s flagship politics show from Belfast on Thursday, members of the public appeared not be fooled by any attempt to soften the blow of the inquiry.

One said: “In my opinion, it’s typical Conservatives. They knew what was coming with the Sue Gray report. And this is just something to deflect from partygate and the disgrace that they are as a government.”

Another added: “Throughout the pandemic, this government has acted too late, and they’ve really only acted now, which again is too late, because of what was announced yesterday, with the Sue Gray report.

“If the Sue Gray report hadn’t come out, we wouldn’t be getting this windfall tax. That’s it. They voted against it last week. It’s seven days, I know it’s a long time in politics, but we’ve all got long memories.”

On the panel, Alliance party leader Naomi Long said it was “hard not to be cynical”, adding: “A blind man on a galloping horse would see this for what it is.

“Essentially what we have here is the government wanting to deflect from a bad news day yesterday and coming forward with a package of measures today that will hopefully get them some good publicity.”

But Robert Buckland, a Conservative MP and former minister, said the announcement had to be made before recess on Thursday, or face a 10-day delay, and that “I just want the government to get on with it”.

He added: “I think the reality is that we saw some of the debate going on about the merits of the windfall tax.

“There clearly was an issue about whether or not it would be right to single out this particular industry.

“And frankly, the precise mechanism that we now have took a bit of time to sort out, but we’ve had the announcement and I think it’s most welcome.”


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