Rishi Sunak accused of ‘smearing’ Angela Rayner with PMQs tax advice jibe

Rishi Sunak accused of ‘smearing’ Angela Rayner with PMQs tax advice jibe

Rishi Sunak has insisted Sir Keir Starmer should spend less time reading Liz Truss’s new book and instead focus on Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner’s tax advice.

Mr Sunak’s jibe led Labour leader Sir Keir to accuse the “billionaire” Prime Minister of “smearing a working-class woman” as the pair clashed in the Commons.

Ms Rayner has faced scrutiny about whether she paid the right amount of tax on the 2015 sale of her Stockport council house because of confusion over whether it was her principal residence.

The Labour MP has said she will “do the right thing and step down” if she is found to have committed a crime in relation to her living situation a decade ago but remains confident she has followed the law at all times.

Mr Sunak also took aim at his predecessor Ms Truss as he told MPs he had the “conviction” to say her economic policies were “wrong”, adding that Sir Keir failed to do similar during Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader.

Sir Keir also used Prime Minister’s Questions to repeatedly press Mr Sunak about his ambition to scrap national insurance contributions altogether, which Labour argues would amount to £46 billion.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has faced scrutiny about whether she paid the right amount of tax on the 2015 sale of her council house (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

Mr Sunak sidestepped calls to say whether such a policy would hit the NHS, the state pension or result in income tax rises.

Opening PMQs, Sir Keir said he is the “proud owner” of a copy of Ms Truss’s new book, Ten Years To Save The West.

He joked: “It is a rare unsigned copy. It is the only unsigned copy.

“It is quite the read. She claims the Tory Party’s disastrous kamikaze budget that triggered chaos for millions was – her words – ‘the happiest moment of her premiership’.

“Has the Prime Minister met anyone with a mortgage who agrees?”

Mr Sunak, to loud cheers from his own side, replied: “All I would say is he ought to spend a bit less time reading that book and a bit more time reading the deputy leader’s (Angela Rayner) tax advice.”

Sir Keir rushed to defend Ms Rayner before continuing his criticism of Ms Truss, as he listed the people the former PM had blamed for the “economic misery” her policies caused.

He said: “We even learn that the poor old lettuce was part of the deep state.

“Does the Prime Minister agree with me that it is actually much simpler than that – it was the Tories’ unfunded tax cuts, tens of billions of pounds of unfunded tax cuts, that crashed the economy and left millions paying more on their mortgages, wasn’t it?”

The Prime Minister replied: “Everyone knows that, two years ago, I wasn’t afraid to repeatedly warn about what her economic policies would lead to, even if it wasn’t what people wanted to hear at the time.

“I was right then but I am also right now when I say that his economic policies would be a disaster for Britain.”

Sir Keir said the Conservatives’ “obsession with wild, unfunded tax cuts” crashed the economy as he pressed for answers on the future of national insurance.

Mr Sunak said: “When my predecessor was running for leader, to use his words, I did have the stomach to argue out loud about her economic policies, had the conviction to say that they were wrong.

“But not once but twice he tried to make his predecessor prime minister despite him opposing Nato and Trident, ignoring antisemitism and siding with our enemies.

“It’s clear what he did – he put his own interests ahead of Britain’s.”

Sir Keir replied: “I think, actually, when he was running for prime minister, for leader, he was explaining how he was funnelling money from poor areas to pay it into richer areas. We know what his record is.”

He added: “I notice he’s not denying the £46 billion promise to scrap national insurance but is refusing to say where the money will come from.”

Sir Keir pressed Mr Sunak to avoid using “waffle” and explain if he would cut the state pension, cut the NHS or increase income tax.

Mr Sunak replied: “We’ve just cut taxes by £900 for a typical worker, we’ve delivered the biggest tax cut for businesses since the 1980s, but, while we’re cutting taxes, Labour is already putting them up.”

Sir Keir noted: “No single politician has ever put tax up more time than he has.

“But just hang on – he was given the chance to rule out cutting the NHS or state pensions to pay for scrapping national insurance. I was a lawyer long enough to know when someone’s avoiding the question.

“So I’m going to give him another chance – will he now rule out cuts to the NHS, cuts to the state pension or putting up taxes to pay for his unfunded £46 billion promise to scrap national insurance? Which is it?”

Mr Sunak replied: “I make absolutely no apology for wanting to end the unfairness of the double taxation on work.”

The PM went on to defend the Government’s spending record for the NHS and pensioners, adding: “But if he wants to talk about tax, let’s have a look at what Labour’s newly-appointed tax adviser has to say.

“This adviser thinks that supporting pensioners is a complete disgrace, he believes their free TV licences are ridiculous and, if it wasn’t bad enough, this adviser has called for increases in income tax, national insurance and VAT.”

Sir Keir said it is “genuinely extraordinary” that Mr Sunak has failed to rule out cuts to the NHS, the state pension or income tax rises.