Second Cabinet minister suggests tax cut should be brought forward 'when we can afford it'

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Brandon Lewis has become the latest Cabinet minister to call for planned income tax cuts to be brought forward "when we can afford to do it".

The Northern Ireland Secretary made the comments a day after similar remarks by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said earlier this year that he would cut the basic rate of income tax from 20p to 19p in the pound before the end of the current parliament in 2024 but some Tories would like to see the cut enacted earlier if possible.

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Mr Lewis told Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday he thinks "lower tax is good", but said he would not "prejudge the difficult and complicated fiscal decisions the chancellor has to make".

He said that Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson had both already made clear that "as soon as the fiscal situation allows... we want to see tax cuts, and the chancellor wants to bring tax cuts in so more people have more money in their pocket to spend how they know they can spend it best".

Speaking on the BBC later, and pressed on whether he would want the cut to come sooner than currently planned, he said: "I'd only want it to come forward when we can afford to do it."

It comes a day after an interview with The Times in which Mr Javid said: "I know he [Sunak] will want to cut taxes as soon as he can.

"And if that can be brought forward, of course, it should be brought forward."

He told the newspaper the "best way" to finance public services is to have a "dynamic, low-tax economy that generates growth".

Tax reduction 'hokey-cokey'

"I'm a low-tax Tory - it's one of the reasons I'm a Conservative and I want to see a small state that focuses on delivery of the things that really matter. And I want to see taxes as low as possible," Mr Javid said.

Labour's shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves told the BBC her party would scrap the government's recent national insurance hike "right now" if it were in government, instead of focusing on income tax cuts.

She said: "The government have got this sort of hokey-cokey where they are increasing national insurance but say they are going to reduce income tax.

"National insurance is a tax only on the income that you get through going out to work, that is why it is such a damaging tax increase right in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis."

MPs should 'grow up'

Last week, in a speech seen as an attempt to reset his premiership after a bruising confidence vote, the prime minister said he wanted to reduce the "aberration" of current high taxes caused by the "fiscal meteorite of COVID".

"The overall burden of taxation is now very high," Mr Johnson said.

"And sooner or later, and I would much rather it was sooner than later, that burden must come down."

But a report in the Sunday Telegraph suggested there were divisions at the top of government about the approach, with Mr Sunak refusing to cut taxes unless the PM identifies spending he is willing to cut to fund such a move.

The newspaper reported that that one source close to Mr Johnson said in response to calls for immediate tax cuts that MPs should "grow up" and stop behaving like they were in "nursery school".

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