Government drift means it will be 'too late' to help poor with energy bills, warns Brown
GORDON Brown has warned a “vacuum” at the top of the Government means it will soon be “too late” to help the poorest with their energy bills when they rise in October.
The former Labour Prime Minister said an emergency budget was needed before Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak replaced Boris Johnson in September to address the cost of living crisis.
“it’s not just that they’re asleep at the wheel - there’s nobody at the wheel,” he said.
The man who gave the Bank of England independence when he became Chancellor in 1997, also criticised the institution for being too slow to get a grip on inflation, which is forecast to hit 13.3 per cent; the target is 2%.
“You have to bear down on inflation and of course the Bank of England probably should have acted a lot more quickly than they did,” Mr Brown said this morning.
He also said the various tax cuts being proposed by the Tory leadership candidates would help the better off, not those facing unprecedented hardship through the winter.
Speaking on Good Morning Britain, he said many people faced “unpayable” bills in October, when the energy price cap is due to rise from a £2000 average in April to £3350 a year.
Mr Brown said:“If you don’t act now, you cannot get the benefits to people by October 1.
“If you wait until after the new prime minister is selected, that will be too late to get benefits to people by October 1.
“It’s too late because people will be experiencing great hardship, an unbearable burden of unpayable bills in October.
“So that’s why I want Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, Boris Johnson, they may disagree on things but they should get together, agree that they are in charge of delivering an emergency budget.
“Parliament should be recalled if necessary. We can let this crisis develop so that we have an emergency we cannot deal with properly in October.”
He said a “vacuum” was stopping the Government tackling the cost-of-living crisis.
“There’s got to be someone in charge. And it’s not just that they’re asleep at the wheel - there’s nobody at the wheel at the moment.
“You’ve got Boris and his chancellor who have been on holiday, and then you’ve got the two leadership candidates on the campaign trail.
“What’s happening at the centre of Government is there is a vacuum and it’s got to be filled immediately if we’re going to protect people by October.
“I know from my own experience, you’ve got to act quickly to deal with the benefits and tax issues if you’re going to get the changes in by the time you want them to be in.”
The former Fife MP also questioned the pledges being made in the Tory leadership race.
He said: “The tax cuts that Liz Truss is proposing don’t really help the people who need help most. They give most to people who are richer.
“Rishi Sunak’s now come out with a tax cut [cutting VAT off energy bills], that he himself said … would disproportionately help the rich a few months ago.
“It’s not tax cuts that are going to solve the problem that we’ve got in the winter months.
“You have to bear down on inflation and of course the Bank of England probably should have acted a lot more quickly than they did.
“But the key thing at the moment is dealing with the cost-of-living crisis and helping people through the winter months.”
Calling for a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency unit, he later told Sky News: "We’ve only seven weeks to go before October 1.
"You’ve got to change the Universal Credit computer to enable it to make payments to people, and there’s no doubt that people are going to go without food and they’re going to go hungry and cold in October if we don’t take action now.
"So this is the time to take action, and that’s why I’m saying that Government ministers should be meeting with the two leadership candidates so that they can agree a package that could be implemented immediately.
“If not, Parliament should be re-called to look at what is a national emergency and at the same time of course the special committee should be meeting to look at all these plans.
"You could be looking at a cap on energy prices, you could be doing what Norway does and say we’ll pay 80% of the increasing bills, or you could have better social security support.
“All these things are not really being discussed by Government ministers at the moment, not even the leadership candidates who are obsessed about tax cuts.”
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Johnson was “missing in action”.
He said: “He must come out of hiding and recall Parliament immediately so MPs can get around the table to figure out how best to support people through this cost-of-living crisis.
“People cannot wait another several weeks for the next Prime Minister to be installed for financial support, as the completely out of touch UK Business Secretary suggests. People need help now."