Liz Truss has claimed there would be no new taxes or energy rationing if she became prime minister, as she dropped hints about further cost-of-living support.
The Tory leadership frontrunner reiterated her two priorities are to cut taxes and to secure the UK’s energy supply as people across the country battle soaring costs.
She added a third priority would be to address costs in the form of a budget or a “fiscal event”, telling the audience: “In a fiscal event, the chancellor would address the issue of household support.”
As Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson knew, maxing out the country’s credit card is not right, it’s not responsible and it is certainly not Conservative
Speaking at the 12th and final leadership hustings at Wembley Arena, Ms Truss also confirmed she would “absolutely be looking to act on business energy costs” amid concerns over the crippling effect of high bills.
Pressed on whether she could rule out energy rationing, Ms Truss replied: “I do rule that out.”
Rival Rishi Sunak, who had a warm-up video labelling himself the “underdog”, offered a less definitive answer on the issue of energy rationing.
He said: “We shouldn’t rule anything out because the challenges that we face with this crisis are significant.”
Mr Sunak had opted to heap praise on Ms Truss in his opening remarks before marking a clean line about his approach.
He said leadership “starts by being straight with the country about the economic challenges”, adding: “I’ve not chosen to say the things that people may want to hear, I’ve said the things I believe our country needs to hear.
“Although it hasn’t made my life easy, it is honest and, for me, that is what leadership is all about.”
The former chancellor said he has the “ability and experience to safely steer us through the storms ahead”, adding: “My plan is the right plan to tackle inflation, to compassionately support those who most need our help and to safeguard our children’s economic inheritance.
“Because as Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson knew, maxing out the country’s credit card is not right, it’s not responsible and it is certainly not Conservative.”
On the NHS, Mr Sunak said: “The NHS will always be safe in my hands but we cannot simply keep throwing money at it. I will be brave enough to actually reform it to get the more efficient health service that we need.”
Mr Sunak also said his government would be conducted “competently”, “seriously” and “with decency and integrity at the heart of everything that we do”, noting: “That is the change that I am going to bring, that is the prime minister I am going to be and that is how we’re going to win the next general election.”
On other policy areas, Ms Truss replied “yes” when asked if she would stop smart motorways amid safety concerns.
Asked to reduce the childcare ratios for England and scrap business rates for nurseries, Ms Truss said she wanted to be in touch with the member who suggested the proposals.
She said: “Childcare is too expensive for parents across our country, we do need to reform the way we do things, we need to also reform the Government funding as it currently comes from three different departments … and it would be an absolute priority for me to help the brilliant people who work in nurseries, but also help parents who are struggling with the cost of living.”
Voting in the Tory leadership contest closes at 5pm on Friday and the winner will be announced on Monday.
Mr Johnson and his successor will then go to Balmoral for the appointment of the new prime minister, rather than Buckingham Palace.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak will be meeting the Queen in Scotland, rather than in London as is tradition.
The Queen will receive Mr Johnson on Tuesday September 6 at her Aberdeenshire home, where he will formally tender his resignation.
This will be followed by an audience with the new Tory leader, where she or he will be invited to form a government.
The news will inevitably heighten concerns about the health of the 96-year-old monarch.
Mr Johnson said arrangements for the handover will be tailored to make sure they suit the Queen.
He sidestepped a question about when he last spoke to her and if he was concerned that she would not be coming to London for the handover.
“I don’t talk about my conversations with the Queen, no prime minister ever does,” Mr Johnson told reporters during a visit to Barrow-in-Furness.
“But I can tell you we will certainly make sure that the arrangements for the handover will fit totally around her and whatever she wants.”