Hunt faces calls for tax cuts and fuel duty freeze from Tory backbench MPs

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Jeremy Hunt has faced calls for tax cuts and a fuel duty freeze during a grilling by Tory backbench MPs.

The Chancellor said “nothing” when pressed on slashing taxes and did not rule out a fuel duty hike, according to MPs who attended the 1922 Committee meeting.

Others gave mainly positive reviews of the gathering, in which Mr Hunt highlighted the importance of tackling inflation before an eventual return to a tax-cutting agenda.

The Gainsborough MP told reporters: “My view is you can’t wait until the general election.

“People are depressed. You’ve got to give them hope. You’ve got to say: ‘We made the right decisions in September, therefore that’s given me room in this budget to cut taxes, whether it’s corporation, personal or fuel’.

“That was my point anyway. But, obviously, he is not going to comment now. He can’t, to be fair, but he got the message.”

MP Jonathan Gullis said he raised the prospect of motorists facing a 12p-a-litre hike in fuel duty in March.

A 23% increase in the duty is pencilled in for March, but chancellors have repeatedly frozen the levy in the past.

Mr Hunt told the 1922 Committee that he did not yet know whether he would hike fuel duty at the spring budget and that “we’d have to wait and see what the finances are at the time”, according to Mr Gullis.

Other MPs said the meeting, during which the Chancellor received some customary table banging, had been “marvellous”, “all very jolly” and “not too bad”.

Mr Hunt also spoke about “the big reduction in business rates that’s coming in April and the impact that will have on small businesses”, the Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner MP said.

Asked about the mood in the meeting, Mr Simmonds said: “It was very positive, actually. People are very serious because the challenge of inflation is a big one, but at the same time there’s a good window of opportunity to get it right. People see that.”

Cutting inflation by half is one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s top five priorities in the run-up to the next election, due by January 2025.

Mr Hunt’s appearance in front of the powerful committee of Tory backbenchers came after the International Monetary Fund’s warning that Britain will be the only major economy to plunge into recession this year, performing worse even than sanction-hit Russia.

In response, the Cabinet minister earlier stressed many forecasts were overly pessimistic about the UK economy last year, adding that “short-term challenges should not obscure our long-term prospects”.

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