Britain has hit its ‘taxable limit’, a former minister warns the Government after it emerges we could be left with a £300bn bill from coronavirus lockdown
- No 10 warned coronavirus has created ‘unprecedented economic uncertainty’
- Rishi Sunak said it is ‘very likely’ the UK will face a significant recession’ this year
- Leaked analysis says ministers told to expect budget deficit to soar to £337bn
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Tax rises and curbs to state pensions could be needed to help fix a £300billion black hole in the public finances, Downing Street acknowledged this evening – as official figures suggested Britain is entering a ‘mega recession’.
No 10 warned the coronavirus crisis had created ‘unprecedented economic uncertainty’ – and refused to say whether Tory manifesto pledges on tax and pensions still stand.
The possibility of tax rises alarmed Tory MPs this evening, with former minister Steve Baker warning that the UK was ‘already at the taxable limit’.
The warning came as official figures showed the economy shrank by 2 per cent in the first three months of this year – the sharpest contraction since the global financial crisis of 2008.
The possibility of tax rises alarmed Tory MPs as former minister Steve Baker (above) warned that the UK was ‘already at the taxable limit’
Leaked Treasury analysis today revealed ministers have been told to expect Britain’s budget deficit to soar to £337billion this year because of the lockdown (file photo)
In March, as the lockdown began, GDP fell by 5.8 per cent, the biggest monthly contraction on record.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was ‘very likely the UK economy will face a significant recession this year and we are in the middle of that as we speak’.
He said the official data underlined why the Government had taken ‘unprecedented action’ to support jobs by committing to subsidising the wages of 7.5million furloughed workers until the end of October.
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘It’s a mega recession, it’s a recession to end all recessions in terms of its scale.
‘The second quarter is going to be much more dramatic with a quarter of the economy pretty much shut down.’
Predicting the economy will shrink by more than 25 per cent in the second quarter, he added: ‘We can get over a year of misery and bounce back but I don’t know how fast the bounce back is going to be.’
Leaked Treasury analysis today revealed ministers have been told to expect Britain’s budget deficit to soar to £337billion this year because of the lockdown.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was ‘very likely the UK economy will face a significant recession this year and we are in the middle of that as we speak’
Although Mr Sunak is said to have accepted that the crisis will leave the UK’s long-term debt higher, the Treasury paper suggests he will have to find up to £30billion a year just to service the increased debt.
Whitehall sources played down the significance of the document, saying ministers were focused on addressing the immediate crisis.
‘We’ll only return to House when it’s safe’
The Commons Speaker today insisted everyone who works in Parliament must be kept safe after ministers called for all 650 MPs to return in person.
The end of ‘virtual’ proceedings would mean that MPs, their staff and all who work on the Parliamentary estate would return in early June.
The requirement for two metres between people means only 50 MPs can attend the chamber while up to 120 join remotely via Zoom.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said his top priority was safety. He warned: ‘I may suspend sittings between items of business to allow safe access to and exit [from] the chamber.’ He would also suspend if the number of MPs attending was unsafe.
One source described the document as ‘total garbage’ – and suggested early tax rises were unlikely.
Mr Sunak said it was ‘premature to speculate’ about how the huge cost of dealing with the crisis would be paid for.
But the Treasury document warns that it is likely to involve a package of tax rises and spending cuts in the longer term.
It states that it will be ‘very challenging’ to raise this sum without breaking Boris Johnson’s ‘tax lock’ – a manifesto pledge not to raise income tax, national insurance or VAT.
It also suggests that ‘stopping the rising cost’ of the pensions triple lock could produce savings of £8billion a year.
The triple lock guarantees that pensions will rise by at least 2.5 per cent or in line with inflation or average earnings, whichever is highest. This was also guaranteed in the Tories’ manifesto in December.
The PM’s spokesman refused to say whether such manifesto pledges still stand, saying: ‘It’s too early to speculate about any future decisions. We’re facing a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty and we remain committed to the agenda that was set out in the Budget.’