Sunak denies being ‘liar’ over £2,000 tax claim

Rishi Sunak has denied Sir Keir Starmer’s accusations that he “lied” by saying Labour would hike taxes by £2,000 in claims criticised by the UK statistics watchdog.

The Prime Minister said the Labour leader was “obviously very rattled” after he repeatedly deployed the attack line during an ITV election debate earlier this week.

Mr Sunak had claimed that “independent Treasury officials” have costed Labour’s policies “and they amount to a £2,000 tax rise for everyone”.

But the Treasury’s permanent secretary James Bowler said ministers had been told not to suggest civil servants produced the figure.

In an interview published by ITV as the fallout deepened on Thursday, the Prime Minister said: “Keir Starmer and the Labour Party are obviously very rattled that we’ve exposed their plans to raise tax on people. And that’s what it, that’s what it demonstrates.”

Asked whether the numbers were instead based on assumptions drawn up by Tory advisers, Mr Sunak said: “No. The analysis and the working is done by Treasury officials.”

The row stems from a document produced by the Conservatives which made a series of assumptions to estimate the cost that might be attached to potential Labour policies.

It said that Labour’s plans had a £38.5 billion deficit over four years, the equivalent of £2,094 for every working household, which the Tories claim would be filled with tax hikes.

In a statement on Thursday, the Office for Statistics Regulation, which previously warned political parties to use figures appropriately during the campaign, suggested the Conservatives had failed to make clear their calculations.

“Without reading the full Conservative Party costing document, someone hearing the claim would have no way of knowing that this is an estimate summed together over four years,” the statement read.

“We warned against this practice a few days ago, following its use in presenting prospective future increases in defence spending.”

Some of the estimated costings in the document were also produced by civil servants at the Treasury, using assumptions provided by politically appointed special advisers.

But Mr Bowler said the headline figure used by the Tories should not be attributed to impartial civil servants because it went beyond that official work.

Labour says many of its policies will not cost anywhere near as much as the Conservatives suggested in their dossier.

Sir Keir has said the Prime Minister’s “made-up” claim had given an “insight into his character” and suggested he had broken the Ministerial Code by lying.

The party is set to agree on a final version of its manifesto on Friday at the closed-doors Clause V meeting of MPs, union representatives and members.

D-Day commemorations meant that campaigning for the July 4 polling day momentarily took a backseat earlier on Thursday, with the Prime Minister addressing veterans in Normandy.