Jacob Rees-Mogg has been slammed for the government’s response to the cost of living crisis, with a radio listener warning that people are “going to die” because of it.
The Brexit opportunities minister was accused of being “patronising” by a caller on LBC, who questioned what the government was doing to tackle soaring energy bills and an inflation rate of 6.2 per cent.
In a testy exchange, the caller accused the senior Tory of “lying” to the British public by promising that Brexit would ensure lower energy prices and cheaper food.
“We were told that if we exited the EU we would have lower energy prices, a cut in VAT and cheaper food — he lied to us,” the caller said.
“In the times that we’re in, why hasn’t this happened?”
Rees-Mogg responded by pointing to Rishi Sunak’s decision to cut VAT on solar panels in the spring statement earlier this month — something he said could not be done while the UK remained in the EU.
And he said the government was taking tariffs off items such as food, clothing and footwear from countries the UK was striking trade deals with, including Australia and New Zealand.
“And the more free trade deals we do the more tariffs will be removed — and more importantly actually because they have a big cost in terms of the flexibility of markets — the more non-tariff will be removed,” he said.
“But there is a global inflation in food prices, which has nothing to do with Brexit.”
Asked byLBC host Nick Ferrari what she made of Rees-Mogg’s response, the caller hit back: “You cut VAT on solar panels — how is that going to help the ordinary struggling person who can’t afford to pay their bills?
“You are so patronising Mr Rees-Mogg and I find it absolutely outrageous that people are going to suffer from hypothermia, they’re going to die, they can’t eat and they can’t heat their homes.”
The chancellor’s spring statement has been criticised for not doing enough to tackle the immediate pressure facing households.
This month has been branded “awful April” thanks to the increase in the energy price cap by £693 a year, while the price of petrol is also on the rise despite the chancellor cutting fuel duty by 5p a litre.
Rees-Mogg was also challenged by Ferrari over the government’s decision to remove the £20 uplift in Universal Credit that was brought in during the pandemic.
The minister said: “What the government has done instead as you know is reduce the taper rate on Universal Credit and increased the living wage.
“We have the highest level of payroll employment that we’ve ever had, unemployment is back done to levels pre-pandemic.”
Ferrari interjected: “If I’m not in work?
“So the whole strategy is to ensure that people get out of poverty through getting into work,” the Cabinet minister replied.
“There are disability benefits...personal independence payments that are available, but people on Universal Credit we want to try and help get into work.
“The route out of poverty is getting people into work — that is fundamental.
“We spend more on disability benefits proportionately than almost any other country in the world, and rightly so.”