Liz Truss to ‘avoid Rishi Sunak-style universal payout’ to ease pain of soaring energy bills

·4-min read
Liz Truss ahead of the Conservative leadership hustings in Darlington. The leadership contender has ruled out universal payouts to deal with the cost of living crisis - Charlotte Graham
Liz Truss ahead of the Conservative leadership hustings in Darlington. The leadership contender has ruled out universal payouts to deal with the cost of living crisis - Charlotte Graham

Liz Truss will not repeat a Rishi Sunak-style universal payout to help all households with their energy bills if she becomes prime minister, according to an MP involved in her campaign.

The Foreign Secretary will adopt a “targeted” approach to support those who are most in need, rather than direct payments to all British households, according to the sources.

The stance would be a marked contrast to Mr Sunak, who as chancellor announced £400 off energy bills this autumn for each of the UK’s 28 million households.

The Sunak campaign has indicated that he would repeat the same approach if he becomes prime minister, mixing the universal measure with other targeted moves.

On Tuesday, Ms Truss repeatedly refused to be drawn on whether she would sign off billions of pounds more in spending to help families with the energy bills increase coming this October.

She has pointed to her promised tax cuts - such as reversing the 1.25 per cent National Insurance rise from this spring - to show how he would help struggling households.

However, Ms Truss and her campaign have been reluctant to spell out her cost of living spending approach, save for saying she is not ruling out more help.

The Sunak campaign - which is seeking to change the dynamics of the contest, given that he trails in membership polls - has jumped on the lack of clarity to accuse Ms Truss of dishonesty, given more financial help is expected whoever wins.

But some Truss campaign figures have offered more insights about the approach Ms Truss may take on cost of living spending if she enters Number 10 on Sept 6.

One Tory MP closely involved in the campaign told The Telegraph that Ms Truss would not repeat Mr Sunak’s energy bills grant for all households.

“They spent a lot of money. A load of it will be given to people who don’t really need it,” the MP said, referring to the richest members of society benefiting from the energy bills grant.

The MP added that the “Treasury’s obsession with one-off payments” was misguided and focussing any new cost of living spending on those most in need would be a better approach.

A Truss campaign press source responded by saying no final decisions on her approach have been taken, saying: “We are not ruling anything in or out” at this stage.”

On Tuesday, Ms Truss declined to promise specific extra support for families struggling with the cost of living, after analysts said annual energy bills could top £4,200 in early 2023.

Speaking during a campaign visit to Huddersfield, Ms Truss said: "What I am talking about is enabling people to keep more money in their own pockets.

"What I don't believe in is taxing people to the highest level in 70 years and then giving them their own money back. We are Conservatives. We believe in low taxes.

"Of course, we will need to deal with the circumstances as they arise. We will see what the situation is like in the autumn, but I am committed to making sure people are supported and I am committed to growing the economy."

Liz Truss speaking to staff at engineering company Reliance Precision during a campaign visit to Huddersfield - Ian Forsyth/PA wire
Liz Truss speaking to staff at engineering company Reliance Precision during a campaign visit to Huddersfield - Ian Forsyth/PA wire

Mr Sunak suggested in an ITV News interview that he could offer hundreds of pounds in extra support to those shouldering the rising cost of living burden.

The former chancellor has said he has "no doubt" extra support will be needed to get people through the winter and that he is "confident" he can find the money needed through government efficiency savings.

Pressed on whether "we're talking a few hundred pounds more here", Mr Sunak said: "Yes."

His £15 billion package of support announced in May also included an extra £650 for households on means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioner households and £150 for people on disability benefit.

A Sunak campaign spokesman accused Ms Truss of not being straight about the money she would need to spend supporting households on the cost of living crisis.

The spokesman said: “At a time of great concern for millions of people, the country needs honesty and leadership about how we tackle the challenges we face."

Mr Sunak also said on Tuesday that he has not talked to Boris Johnson since he quit the Cabinet more than a month ago.