PMQs: Rishi Sunak’s first opening statement as PM
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The new Prime Minister vowed to put the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto at the heart of his policies and began by reimposing a fracking ban in England that his predecessor controversially scrapped. Mr Sunak, 42, was also reconsidering immigration and deregulation plans as part of a major overhaul to reverse Truss’s 49 days at No 10.
Central to Ms Truss’s growth-boosting vision were investment zones where planning restrictions are relaxed and the deregulation of the financial services sector. The scrapping of environmental protections and increasing more skilled migrants were also on her agenda.
Tom Fyans, interim chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, praised Mr Sunak for doing away with the “dangerous and reckless decision” to lift the ban on fracking.
He said: “Fracking would have had no impact on people’s energy bills this winter, but it would have risked industrialising the countryside and compromised our climate targets. It has no place in a net-zero future.
“Integrity means sticking to your manifesto commitments and that’s exactly what this Prime Minister has done on fracking, and rightly so.”
A night of chaos erupted in Westminster last week when government whips turned a ballot on fracking into a vote of confidence in the government. Dozens of angry Tory MPs refused to back the Government in the vote, which ultimately came on the eve of her resignation.
Mr Sunak pledged to correct Truss’s “mistakes” while rebuilding the public finances in a “fair and compassionate” way.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will set out further plans to get the UK’s deficit under control in a delayed autumn statement on November 17.
Downing Street refused to commit to key pledges on the triple lock on state pensions and increasing defence spending to three per cent of GDP by 2030.
In a statement to broadcasters, Mr Hunt said it is “extremely important” that the statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances.”
He added: “The Office for Budget Responsibility also want to make sure that their forecasts are the most accurate possible and there have been a lot of changes even in the last 48 hours.
“This is my recommendation to the Prime Minister as the best way to ensure that the decisions that we take, these very, very difficult decisions, are ones that stand the test of time.”
Meanwhile, fresh from assembling his new cabinet, Mr Sunak clashed with Sir Keir Starmer at the despatch box for the first time in the Commons.
The Labour leader called Mr Sunak’s appointment as the first British Asian Prime Minister “a significant moment in our national story”.
He said: “It’s a reminder that for all the challenges we face as a country, Britain is a place where people of all races and all beliefs can fulfil their dreams.
MPs agreed with “hear, hear” as the Labour leader said “it’s part of what makes us all so proud to be British”.
Tory MPs were vociferous in their support for their new PM, repeatedly shouting “more!” in stark contrast to the glum mood during embattled Ms Truss’s final PMQs a week earlier.
They roared and bashed the benches so vigorously on his arrival that Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle cautioned them to “cheer him by all means” but “don’t damage the furniture”.
Sir Keir opened the lively session with an attack on Mr Sunak’s reappointment of Suella Braverman to the Home Office.
The Labour Leader also confronted Mr Sunak with a matter that dogged him as Chancellor – his wife Akshata Murty’s previous “non-dom” status for tax purposes – an arrangement that reportedly saved her millions as the cost of living soared.
Calling on the Government to get rid of the status which Sir Keir said costs the Treasury £3.2 billion every year, the Labour leader added: “I don’t need to explain to the Prime Minister how non-dom status works, he already knows all about that”.
Mr Sunak replied that his cabinet would take “difficult decisions to restore economic stability and confidence”.
Former Cabinet minister Sajid Javid has said he made a “mistake” backing Liz Truss for Tory leader, as he accused the ex-PM of failing to show respect for “our key economic institutions”.
The former chancellor and health secretary, who backed Ms Truss in the first Tory leadership contest of the year, said her choices on tax cuts and spending were “ultimately where she failed”, as she went “too far”.
He added that he still considers Boris Johnson a “friend”, despite resigning from his cabinet in July, but he can understand why the ex-PM “might take a different point of view”.
Asked if he misjudged Ms Truss’s character, Mr Javid told LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr that he made a “mistake” backing her.
He said: “In hindsight, I made a mistake. I think many of us did.
“I wanted her to do well, of course, I did. I wanted her to deliver on the things that she said she would, but… she went a lot further when it came to tax cuts, she went even a lot, lot further when it came to spending, and she didn’t show respect for our key economic institutions.
“And that is ultimately where she failed.”
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