The Conservatives are “certainly the party of business”, Jeremy Hunt has insisted ahead of his speech at Tory conference today.
The Chancellor told LBC Radio: “We certainly are the party of business.
“Rishi Sunak and I are prepared to take those decisions because there is a fundamental choice in British politics between a party that does want to bring down the tax burden and the Labour Party which when they were in power increased taxes in 13 out of 13 budgets.”
Hunt will make a keynote speech on the economy today at the annual Tory conference in Manchester, and announce plans to increase the national living wage to £11 an hour.
Asked by presenter Nick Ferrari about critics like Iceland boss Richard Walker who called the Tories out of touch and Phones4U founder John Caudwell who said he might stop making donations to the party, Hunt said that as Chancellor he had cut business rates by an average of 10 per cent.
“What all of them are forgetting is something they know very well from their business life is that if you want to do something big like bring down the tax burden there are no shortcuts,” he said.
“What I would say to them is if we want to be the fastest growing economy in Europe we are already making progress.”
Quizzed on where he would want to direct money for tax cuts in the future — workers, businesses or inheritance taxes — he said There are good arguments for cutting taxes across the board.
“I do want to cut taxes and I could give you an argument for cutting any one of those taxes. If you said to me right now what is my biggest priority? It is to cut taxes on business to get growth going in the economy.
“I think the bigger question is can we have faster growth and get away from ever ratcheting taxes going up and up.”
Hunt added: “We can, but there are no shortcuts.
“We have to unleash companies and make it easier for them to grow but we also have to spend taxpayers money more efficiently. Including reforms to the welfare system.”
Hunt also questioned why the HS2 rail line is costing vastly more than similar projects in Europe.
He told LBC: “I need to have an answer why it costs 10 times more to build high speed rail in this country than it does across the Channel in France. Some of that spend you’ve been talking about [on PR costs] is totally unacceptable.”
The Chancellor also admitted he flew to Manchester from London for the party conference rather than taking the train, and told BBC Breakfast: “I was told that my train had been cancelled.”
He also insisted to Sky News that voters would “have to wait” for a decision on HS2 to be revealed, and said: “We will make the announcement at the appropriate time.”
Hunt hinted to Sky News that he would keep the triple lock on pensions in place at the Autumn Statement, saying: “Look at our actions to date, we’ve always prioritised that group of people.”
And on Times Radio, the Chancellor said he had been “completely cured” of any leadership ambitions and praised Sunak, who he said “works phenomenally hard” and “has an incredible grasp of detail”.