Boris Johnson has been urged to brush up his act to stop thousands of families facing “disaster” due to tax increases and rising energy costs.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner claimed the Prime Minister’s “incompetence is taking our country backwards and costing our country dear” as she raised concerns over inflation nearing 6%.
She accused Mr Johnson of being someone who “always gives with one hand and takes away with the other”, telling the Commons: “Under this Prime Minister the country is worse off.”
But Mr Johnson defended his Government’s record on Universal Credit, increasing the minimum wage and support via the warm home discounts, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments.
He also denied saying fears about inflation were unfounded, although a Sky News clip from October showed him saying: “People have been worrying about inflation for a very long time … and those fears have been unfounded.”
Ms Rayner, who is standing in for Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader tested positive on Wednesday, told Prime Minister’s Questions: “In October the Prime Minister said that fears about inflation were unfounded, but working people across the country are starting the new year facing rising bills and ballooning prices, so how did he get it so wrong?”
Mr Johnson replied: “Of course I said no such thing because inflation is always something that we have to be careful about, but what we are doing is making sure that we protect the people of this country throughout what is unquestionably going to be a difficult period, and that’s why we are ensuring that we’ve lifted the Living Wage by record sums, we make sure people have cold weather payments, making sure that they have the warm homes discount …
“The most important thing we can do to look after people during this very difficult time is to ensure that we take the balanced and proportionate approach that we are, to ensure that we’re able to keep our country and our society going and that is exactly what we are doing.
The Prime Minister and his Chancellor have presided over economic mismanagement, low growth and neglect of our public services. And their resolution to fix this? Whacking more taxes on working peopleLabour deputy leader Angela Rayner
“That is why we doubled down on the booster programme and that is why we are sticking with Plan B, that’s the right approach for the country.”
Ms Rayner later told MPs: “The Prime Minister and his Chancellor have presided over economic mismanagement, low growth and neglect of our public services.
“And their resolution to fix this? Whacking more taxes on working people.
“Combine the tax rise with soaring energy prices and the average family faces a hit of £1,200 – this is an iceberg right ahead, so will he finally stop and change course … or will he plough on to what will be a disaster for thousands of families?”
Mr Johnson insisted the Government had taken steps to help people and also “keep this country open, keep our economy moving”.
He said: “We will continue to look after people throughout the pandemic.”
But Ms Rayner countered: “Prices for everyday goods are soaring out of control, hard-earned savings will be hit and the wages of working people won’t go as far.”
Ms Rayner said “serious solutions” were needed to stop people “falling into poverty or debt” as a result of inflation.
She added: “Instead, we have this Prime Minister and his incompetent leadership, and every time we are faced with a challenge he denies there’s a problem, he tries to laugh it off, he looks for someone else to blame.
“So can I suggest to the Prime Minister it’s not about brushing your hair, it’s about brushing up on your act. Does he accept his incompetence is taking our country backwards and costing our country dear?”
Mr Johnson replied: “No, what I tell the House and tell the country is that Labour incompetence has ruined this country time and time again.”
Ms Rayner earlier pressed Mr Johnson to cut VAT on energy bills.
But Mr Johnson replied: “They now they have the bare-faced cheek to come to this House of Commons and say that they want to cut VAT on fuel when everybody knows and he did too, everybody knows full well it would be absolutely impossible if they were to do what Labour would do and go back into the EU, remain aligned with the EU single market.”