Veteran Conservatives have defended raising taxes during a cost-of-living crisis, but promised the cap had been reached and taxes would be cut.
Foreign Minister Rishi Sunak said the tax increases were “done” and that his “priority” was to cut taxes after being responsible for imposing the highest tax burden in 70 years through recent increases.
Oliver Dowden, the chairman of the Conservative Party, said the government must “stay out” of a decision to increase national insurance contributions by 1.25 percentage points next month, a move designed to pay for and clear the NHS backlog. induced by the coronavirus.
But the cabinet minister, speaking to reporters in Blackpool during his party’s spring conference, said ministers needed to “start looking at how we control government spending” after Covid in a bid to “get back on that path”. to ease the fiscal demands of voters. .
“I want taxes cut as soon as possible,” Dowden told reporters after attempting to drive a streetcar.
The comments came after Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg urged the party to “go back” to being a “tax-cutting government”.
Asked during a live recording of the Moggcast podcast if he wanted the national insurance increase reversed if there was “spare change” to do so, Rees-Mogg dodged the question, saying it was “chancellor’s business.”
But he added: “The Conservative Party is a low-tax party.
“I think the chairman of the Conservative Party said yesterday that we are at the highest level of taxation that we can handle, and I think that is correct.”
Sunak, speaking during a talk event at the conference, said the “last thing” he had wanted to do as Tory chancellor was raise taxes.
However, he argued that it would not have been “economically responsible” not to have addressed the financial problems caused by the pandemic, with lending reaching levels last seen during World War II.
But he assured party members: “That is done. We’ve made the tough decisions we had to make.
“My priority in the future is to reduce taxes. I made it very clear in the budget.”
With the spring declaration due on Wednesday, the 11th incumbent promised to help the public “where we can” with sky-high energy bills and soaring prices at the petrol pumps, but admitted the government cannot “solve all the problems.” “.
In his speech, Mr Dowden declared that the Tories, starting with local elections in May, would prepare for a general election in two years’ time, issuing a call for candidates from “all walks of life”.
He told reporters later on Friday that there was “plenty of time” to make fiscal decisions before voters choose the next government.
The former culture secretary seemed to suggest that it was no accident that the party had returned to Blackpool, previously a mainstay on the party’s conference circuit, for the first time since 2007, saying his team had to be the “party of industrial towns and mining towns. as well as the metropolis.
Elsewhere, Leveling Up secretary Michael Gove said improving opportunities in Britain need not mean “turning off the animal spirits of the south-east”, arguing the answer lay in “boosting” other areas.
“If we do that, if we make sure that every part of this UK is running economically, then the prize for success is huge,” he said in his conference speech.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, meanwhile, denied the Tories had “become some kind of sodden social democratic party”, saying it was “nonsense” to suggest he was in favor of a bigger state by introducing preventive measures.
“We spend too much time on the symptoms of ill health and too little time addressing the causes. There is no small state that is not a preventative state,” he told the Winter Gardens audience.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister will close the two-day event at the resort, and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will also give a speech.