The British will have to wait a few weeks before the government shows further support for fighting rising inflation amid new questions about Boris Johnson’s whereabouts.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he expects the next prime minister’s emergency budget to include measures to help the people, although that is not expected for at least another month.
He also said “I don’t know where Boris is” but said people would not regret the outgoing prime minister’s honeymoon, adding that he was in “constant contact” with Mr Johnson.
Both Mr Johnson and Chancellor Nadhim Zahavi were on vacation and away from Westminster when the Bank of England warned that the economy would enter its longest recession since the 2008 financial crisis.
Interest rates were increased from 1.25% to 1.75%, the biggest increase in 27 years, while the Bank also predicts that inflation could peak at 13.3%.
Either Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or former Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be announced as the winners of the Conservative Party leadership contest on September 5, after which they will succeed Johnson as prime minister.
The House of Commons will sit from 5 to 22 September and then sit for a month, meaning the new administration will have to work quickly to draw up an emergency budget before the party conference adjourns.
Mr Kwarteng said Mr Zahavi is “always available” before telling Sky News: “I’m the business secretary, I’m here, I’m in your studio, I’m in a suit, I’m not on vacation. And we are fully focused on solving this problem.”
Asked what actions he is taking now, Mr. Kwarteng told Times Radio that he is considering expanding gas storage capacity and energy security, although he acknowledged that these are “medium-term” issues.
He added: “But an immediate attempt to solve the problem must be made through the Treasury, this must be done by whoever the next Chancellor.”
Mr Kwarteng said the government is “focused on the cost of living,” adding: “That means we are considering measures to be included in a potential emergency budget, but of course we have competition for leadership, so the party decides, who is the leader, and then the next prime minister will put that at the top of his agenda.”
Mr. Kwarteng continued: “The only way we can solve the pressing problem is with an emergency budget, an intervention, and that is what will happen.
“But of course, until we have a new prime minister, which is only four weeks from now, we have to wait for a new prime minister and a new chancellor, as they will have to work together on this to get the support package through.”
Mr. Kwarteng continued, “We need a new prime minister, and without a new prime minister, we can’t have an emergency budget, and without an emergency budget, we can’t help people, so I’m afraid that’s consistency.”
The cabinet minister said the claim that the government did nothing during the summer was “completely false,” adding of Mr Johnson: “I don’t know where Boris is, but I’m constantly in touch with him. He just got married, I think he’s on his honeymoon and I don’t think a lot of people would be jealous of him for that.”
Asked why he did not know the prime minister’s whereabouts, Mr Kwarteng replied: “Because I am here in London doing my job. I am in constant contact with him, as well as with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.”
He said he was WhatsApping the couple “all the time,” adding of Mr. Johnson’s honeymoon activities: “He was very focused on energy efficiency measures; it’s also very focused on renewables and I think the renewables story has been very, very good in the UK.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “Families and retirees across the country will wake up this morning to news that will be absolutely horrified as a juggernaut is approaching that will destroy family finances. .
“So we need to act. We have time to plan.
“The package that has been announced to support families to cope with electricity bills is clearly not enough if we are talking about more than £4,000 in electricity bills – almost half of a full state pension.
“So we will reduce VAT on electricity bills, we will not give £4bn tax breaks to gas and oil companies like the government does, we will modernize houses.”