Brandon Lewis and Nick Robinson clashed on the Today program this morning (Photo: Getty/BBC Radio 4)
Liz Truss supporter Brandon Lewis clashed with Radio 4′s Nick Robinson on Monday over Tory the leadership hopeful claims she would not provide “handouts”.
The Bank of England predicted last week that a recession will soon hit the UK, spanning five quarters, while energy bills reach almost £4,000.
Truss then said she would reject “handouts” to help the public cope – a claim her supporters have since claimed was “misconstrued” – and instead wants to cut taxes to help people.
Talking to Today the program highlighted Tory MP Truss’s plans to cut green fees and reduce National Insurance contributions.
Pressed on whether she would end up giving handouts after all, Lewis replied: “What you’re asking me to do is to prejudge—”
Robinson replied: “No, I don’t, I’m asking you for a fact.
“What is the effect of her key policy promise?”
“What Liz has outlined is that she would put forward an emergency budget,” Lewis said.
“Mr Lewis, come on. This is the key tax promise of Liz Truss. That is what she says is necessary to do. That’s what makes her different Rishi Sunak.
“I’m doing something perfectly reasonable—to explain the effect of the promise. That would be a gain of £170. Important money, for someone on the median income, but as you know the energy price cap is likely to increase by around £1,600.”
In October, energy regulator Ofgem will raise the maximum amount consumers can be charged on their bills to around £2,800 in total. It is expected to rise again to £3,500 by January.
So Robinson pointed out that Truss’ plans would leave people on a median budget short of £1,000 a year.
“Look, I’m asking about something people call an emergency,” he added.
As the journalist and the Tory MP continued to talk over each other, Robinson ended by asking: “Can I ask you a question now?”
He pointed out that financial journalist and MoneySavingExpert Martin Lewis believes people will need to go to their local libraries to stay warm this winter – meaning handouts are likely to be the only means of stopping people going into fuel poverty.
“Tax cuts aren’t going to cut it,” Robinson pointed out.
“You have to have handouts. Or is there another policy that I don’t know about?”
Lewis replied: “We think the best way [to help people] is to have more money in your pockets.”
Robinson continued to push back, saying, “You’re on the show to explain, and I’ve asked you, I think, four, five, possibly six times.”
“And every time you ask Nick, I want to be able to give you the same answer – apart from the specifics that Liz has already outlined that give some help to people, I understand that it doesn’t completely solve the problem, this is a big international global inflation and energy price change that we are facing.
“She also wants to promote an emergency budget.”
“Can it include handouts?” Robinson asked repeatedly.
Lewis replied: “It’s based on a principle of having a low-tax economy which means people are better placed to deal with these challenges.”
“Will that include handouts?” Robinson asked.
“Well, that’s prejudging a budget that we haven’t had yet.”
“OK, so it can,” the Today presenter concluded, but apologised: “Now forgive me for interrupting several times. It’s to try to get clarity because there is a huge looming crisis.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.