Jeremy Hunt has admitted the government went “too far, too fast” and that he will have to take some “very difficult decisions” on spending and tax to get the economy back up and running.
Earlier, the new chancellor admitted there “were mistakes” in Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget in an interview with Sky News.
But in an apparent bid to restore trust in the government’s handling of the economy, Mr Hunt released a statement on Saturday night saying his focus is on “growth underpinned by stability”.
“The drive on growing the economy is right – it means more people can get good jobs, new businesses can thrive and we can secure world-class public services. But we went too far, too fast,” he said.
He appeared to warn the public it won’t be an easy road, saying the government has to “be honest with people”.
“We are going to have to take some very difficult decisions both on spending and on tax to get debt falling but the top of our minds when making these decisions will be how to protect and help struggling families, businesses and people,” he said.
“I will set out clear and robust plans to make sure government spending is as efficient as possible, ensure taxpayer money is well spent and that we have rigorous control over our public finances.”
Mr Hunt was appointed as the new chancellor on Friday, following Mr Kwarteng’s sacking after just 38 days in the job.
While some Tory MPs welcomed the new appointment as “an experienced pair of hands”, others questioned why Mr Kwarteng was the one who had to go when he was pursuing policies Ms Truss espoused in her leadership campaign.
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times is reporting that Mr Hunt will delay a planned 1p reduction to the basic rate of income tax by one year after the country’s fiscal watchdog warned that the public finances were in a worse state than expected.
Soaring interest rates
It comes as the Bank of England (BoE) said interest rates will have to be raised higher than initially hoped in the face of inflationary pressure.
In August, the Bank said it expected the rate of inflation to peak at 13% this year – and remain above 10% for a few months before falling.
But now, BoE governor Andrew Bailey says the realities of inflation might require a stronger interest rates response from the central bank.
Mr Bailey said he spoke to Mr Hunt on Friday and had a “meeting of minds” on the issue of “fiscal sustainability”.
Taking questions in Washington, he said: “I can tell you that I spoke to Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor, yesterday. I can tell you that there was a very clear and immediate meeting of minds between us about the importance of fiscal sustainability and the importance of taking measures to do that.”
He continued: “It’s not appropriate for me to constrain the choices he makes but the very clear message I would give and it is a clear message for everybody, including a clear message for markets.
“I can tell you there is a very clear and immediate meeting of minds on the importance of stability and sustainability.”
‘Mistakes’ in mini-budget
Reflecting on the government’s recent mini-budget, Mr Hunt told Sky News that “it was a mistake when we were going to be asking for difficult decisions across the board on tax and spending to cut the rate of tax paid by the very wealthiest”.
He added that it was also an error to “fly blind” by not accompanying the “fiscal event” with an economic forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, which many argue sent the financial markets into turmoil.
On tax cuts, he said: “We won’t have the speed of tax cuts we were hoping for and some taxes will go up.”
Asked if this would mean a return to austerity, he replied: “I don’t think we’re talking about austerity in the way we had it in 2010. But we’re going to have to take tough decisions on both spending and tax.”