Rees-Mogg may reflect the wider concerns from the right of the Conservative party over raising taxes as the country is entering a recession.
The fragile peace in the Tory party has been exposed as Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement for taking the “easy option” by putting up taxes.
The chancellor included almost £25 billion in tax increases in his package to fill the UK’s financial blackhole, with the most well-off taking a hammering.
The Rishi Sunak administration will fear the comments by Rees-Mogg, the former cabinet minister and low-tax enthusiast, reflects wider concerns from the right of the party over raising taxes as the country is entering a recession.
Rees-Mogg, whose time on the ministerial benches was marked by controversial attempts to reduce the headcount of the civil service, said ministers should be seeking to cut spending through efficiency savings in public services.
He told Channel 4 News: “Taxation has got too high and there are issues with the level of expenditure that we have got.
“I think there is a real problem with fiscal drag bringing more and more people into the 40p (tax) band who, particularly if they are living in the south of England, are not necessarily particularly well-off.
“That is going to be hard for them paying an extra level of tax on top of what they are already paying.
“Also freezing the basic band is going to be a burden for all taxpayers, even those who are still in receipt of benefit.
“I think we need to look at the efficiency of government to make sure money is well spent before reaching for the easy option of putting up taxes.
“What we actually need to be doing is having a strategy for growth and looking to lower taxes.”
Responding to today's Autumn Statement, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg says that "we need to look at the efficiency of government to make sure money is well spent before reaching for the easy option of putting up taxes". pic.twitter.com/0iQi1JuGFY
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) November 17, 2022
Rees-Mogg is a long-standing critic of prime minister Rishi Sunak, having previously described him as a “socialist” over his record of raising taxes when he was chancellor. He quit the cabinet when Sunak became PM
His comments will cause concern among ministers after another former minister, Esther McVey, warned she could not support tax rises if the government continued to press ahead with the HS2 rail link.
Rees-Mogg insisted however that he still supported the government.
“I am a Conservative member of parliament and I support the leader of the party. We’ve had three leaders in the last few months – it would be ridiculous to have another,” he said.
Among a string of little-noticed measures, the chancellor also plans a 23% increase in fuel duty, which adds £5.7 billion to his coffers and is the first tax rise of its kind since 2011.