Penny Mordaunt Breaks Ranks As She Says Benefits Should Rise With Inflation

The Commons leader is the first minister to publicly oppose real terms cuts to the welfare budget.
Penny Mordaunt at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham.
Penny Mordaunt at the Conservative Party annual conference in Birmingham.
Aaron Chown via PA Wire/PA Images

Penny Mordaunt has become the first government minister to call for benefits to rise with inflation.

The Commons leader said the move “makes sense” as Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng come under fresh pressure from Tory rebels over the issue.

The prime minister and chancellor have repeatedly refused to confirm that they will stick by Boris Johnson’s previous promise that benefits would go up in real terms.

Instead, it is believed the government is thinking about putting them up in line with average earnings, which are currently around half the rate of inflation.

Speaking to Times Radio, Mordaunt said: “I’ve always supported - whether it’s pensions, whether it’s our welfare system - keeping pace with inflation. It makes sense to do so. That’s what I voted for before.

“We want to make sure that people are looked after and that people can pay their bills. We are not about trying to help people with one hand and take away with another.”

Her comments put her at odds with her cabinet colleague Brandon Lewis, who repeatedly refused to say whether he supported raising benefits with inflation when interviewed this morning on Sky News.

The justice secretary said: ”People are wondering what will happen with the benefits structure and what the changes will be if there are any.

“It’s something that goes through a proper process. Decisions around that are something the work and pensions team work through and they will make an announcement through the course of the autumn.”

Meanwhile, Tory MP Mel Stride, chair of the Treasury select committee, told Radio 4’s Today programme he would have to “think long and hard” if asked to vote to increase benefits in line with earnings rather than inflation.

He said: “I’d need to see all the details, I’d need to see it in the round, but I’d have to think long and hard about that.

“Because the last time the benefits were uprated, because of the way the mechanism works, they’re uprated in April but they’re pegged against the previous September’s inflation.

“The way it worked last time was the uprating was just 3.1 pecause because inflation was low the previous September, but of course inflation was much higher than that (in April).

“So we’re coming off the back actually of a kind of quite a strong real-terms squeeze on those benefits already so I think that will be a really tough call to make.”

Tory rebels believe they can force the PM into increasing benefits with inflation after she and Kwarteng U-turned on plans to abolish the 45p tax rate for the highest earners.


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