Government can’t subsidise energy bills ‘indefinitely’, says Jeremy Hunt ahead of budget

Jeremy Hunt (PA)
Jeremy Hunt (PA)

Jeremy Hunt has warned the Government cannot subsidise energy bills “indefinitely” as he spoke of “horrible decisions” in next week’s budget.

Speaking in an interview with the Sunday Times, the Chancellor said there would be no “rabbits” pulled out of hats in Thursday’s budget, and added it was “not possible” to support people’s energy bills indefinitely.

The energy support guarantee, which guarantees the average bill would not be higher than £2,500, had been due to last for two years, but under plans announced by Jeremy Hunt it is due to end in its current form in April next year.

It is not yet clear what level of support will replace it.

He told the paper: “In the end, if we want to be a low-tax economy we’ve got to find a way of not ending up with an entire second NHS in terms of the cost of our energy bills… which will drag down growth and so… that is something that you can expect to hear a lot about when I stand up [on Thursday].”

According to reports, Mr Hunt is mulling some £35bn in spending cuts and some £20bn in tax revenue to plug an estimated £55bn black hole in the public finances.

The Chancellor did not confirm specific measures he would take in Thursday’s budget, but told the Sunday Times: “I’m Scrooge who’s going to do things that make sure Christmas is never cancelled.

“But I hope that people will understand that there’s going to be some very horrible decisions in order to get us back into the place where we are the fantastic country that we all want to be.”

Mr Hunt was appointed Chancellor under Liz Truss as her disastrous ‘mini budget’ unravelled, with many of its flagship measures junked in the following weeks.

However, he said that Ms Truss and the former Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, had been correct to go for growth, despite mistakes made.

“The tragedy is that Liz and Kwasi were absolutely right that if we’re going to pay for the NHS and good public services, we have to unlock the growth paradox in this country,” he said.

In a reference to Matt Hancock, the former Health Secretary who is competing on I’m A Celebrity, Mr Hunt said: “I think eating testicles in the jungle is literally the only job in the world that’s worse than mine.”

Speaking on Friday, Mr Hunt said he will be working to make a possible recession “shallower and quicker” in his highly anticipated autumn budget.

The UK economy shrank between July and September, with the Bank of England predicting a “very challenging” two-year recession.