Liz Truss said she would help people with the cost-of-living crisis by lowering taxes rather than handing out “handouts”.
The budding Tory leader was asked if she would offer more help with rising fuel bills this winter if she became the next prime minister.
The Foreign Minister told the Financial Times she would of course “see what else can be done” but said she would act “conservatively”.
Ms. Truss rejected the idea of handouts, promising instead to cut taxes.
She told the publication: “Of course, I will see what else can be done. But I would have acted conservatively: reduced the tax burden, and not handed out alms.”
Her comments come against a backdrop that is getting harsher day by day.
Energy consultancy Auxilione said this week that the government’s price ceiling, which sets bills for more than 20 million households in the UK, could reach nearly £4,000 a year from January.
A new analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) also shows that almost half (44%) of British adults who pay their electricity bills faced very or somewhat difficult means of paying them in the last two weeks of July.
We can create a British version of Silicon Valley. We can create real opportunitiesLiz Truss
The Bank of England warned Thursday that the UK will face falling household incomes within two years, with inflation rising to more than 13% and the economy once again falling into its longest recession since the financial crisis.
At a clash with Tory leaders in Eastbourne, Sussex, on Friday night, Ms Truss suggested her immediate tax cut plans could stave off a recession.
For now, the foreign secretary has vowed to halt green levies on electricity bills, reverse national insurance increases, and cancel planned corporate tax increases.
She told members of the Conservatives, “I know predictions can be difficult, but predictions are not destiny. And what we shouldn’t do is talk ourselves into a recession. We must keep taxes low.
“We can create a British version of Silicon Valley. We can create real opportunities.”
However, her rival Rishi Sunak argued that unless inflation was brought under control, there was “no hope” for the Tories to win the next election.
In a thinly veiled strike at his opponent, Mr. Sunak told the crowd that he was “particularly concerned about policies that risk worsening the situation (inflation) and prolonging it.”
The former chancellor said, “Well, the first thing we need to do to make sure we can win this election is to fix the inflation problem by then.
“And that is why I am particularly concerned about policies that could make the situation worse and prolong it.
“Because it’s not just this winter’s problem. This is a problem for the next winter, and not only.
I don’t want to stick to the failed policies of the past. This is what some people suggest. It didn’t work.Rishi Sunak
“Since, as the Bank of England said, they are worried that inflation will take root, there is no hope that we will win the next election. Absolutely none. It is so simple”.
He also insisted that the corporate tax was not the “right tax” to focus on, instead speaking of the need to reform business taxes to “cut them down to what matters”.
Mr. Sunak said, “I don’t want to stick to the failed policies of the past. This is what some people suggest. It didn’t work.”
He added: “Investing in this economy today is no better than ten years ago, despite the fact that we do all these things in relation to corporate tax.
“Because this is not the tax to focus on. And this is where my experience in business, when I was chancellor, my conversations with business led me to the conclusion that we need to be much more radical.
“We need to reform business taxes to cut them on what matters.”
On Friday evening, the Foreign Secretary received the support of two former Conservative ministers, Nusa Ghani and Dame Andrea Leadsom.
Ms Ghani told Tory members in Eastbourne that, because of her role as Vice Chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative MPs, she could not support a candidate until this stage of the race.
Dame Andrea, who served as Penny Mordaunt’s campaign manager and business secretary, wrote in the Telegraph that Miss Truss would make sure “every child is given the best start in life”.
Later, when she takes part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, the foreign secretary is expected to lay out a series of economic reforms that her campaign team says “will promote regional growth by reviewing funding to increase the amount of investment needed.”
Some of the reforms include revisiting the equalization formula to address the lack of investment in regional infrastructure and the creation of low-tax, low-regulation “investment zones” or “full free ports” on abandoned sites.
However, a spokesman for Mr. Sunak’s campaign accused Ms. Truss’s team of a “copy and paste” policy already introduced by the former chancellor.
A spokesperson said: “Not only is the Team Truss copy and paste policy introduced by Rishi himself, they are also re-announcing a government policy from two years ago.
“As they say, imitation is the best form of flattery.”
Mr. Sunak’s camp argued that “investment zones” were just copy and paste of free ports he first created as chancellor, and that Ms. Truss’s plan to revise the level-up formula came almost two years after he reformed it.