PMQs today verdict: Keir Starmer skewers Rishi Sunak over unfunded tax cuts and Liz Truss

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Rishi Sunak faced Keir Starmer at PMQs today in the first session after the Easter recess.

Keir Starmer skewered Rishi Sunak over an unfunded pledge to cut National Insurance contributions (NICs) and Liz Truss in PMQs today.

The Labour leader asked the Prime Minster three times in a row if he would rule out cutting the NHS or the state pension or raise income tax to pay for an ambition to get rid of NICs. While Sunak said he made “absolutely no apology about wanting to end the unfairness of the double taxation”, three times refused to rule out NHS cuts or raising income tax.

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This was the first PMQs after the Easter recess, and Sunak finally had some material to attack Labour on. The police opened an investigation into Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, on Friday. The Ashton-under-Lyne MP is accused of potentially breaking electoral law by failing to properly disclose her main residence in official documents. It comes as opposition figures have questioned whether Rayner should have paid capital gains tax on the sale of her council house before she became an MP.

And when Starmer asked him about Liz Truss’ new book, Ten Years To Save The West, Sunak quickly brought up Rayner. The PM said: “He ought to spend a bit less time reading that book and a bit more time reading the Deputy Leader’s tax advice.”

However, Truss is fruitful ground for Starmer, and only serves to remind homeowners that it was partly her fault their mortgages have gone up. In the last week, Truss has made a number of bombshell claims in interviews, including backing Donald Trump in the US Presidential election despite the Republican’s attempts to overturn the results of Joe Biden’s victory in 2020. She also said she wants to abolish the United Nations and blamed the Bank of England for her disastrous mini-Budget.

Starmer brought up a comment where Truss said that the mini-Budget was the “happiest moment of her premiership”. In response, Sunak made the point that he had criticised Truss’ economic plans, saying “I was right then, but I’m also right now.”

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Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak at PMQs. Credit: Mark Hall/Getty/PAKeir Starmer and Rishi Sunak at PMQs. Credit: Mark Hall/Getty/PA
Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak at PMQs. Credit: Mark Hall/Getty/PA | Mark Hall/Getty/PA

But the Labour leader cleverly turned this on Sunak, asking: “When is he finally going to learn the lesson from his predecessors’ mistakes and explain where the money is coming from for his own completely unfunded £46 billion promise to scrap national insurance?”

The Prime Minister tried to attack Starmer over Jeremy Corbyn, but it was noticeable that three times he avoided answering the question.

PMQs verdict - Starmer victory with clever questions on tax cuts

In the House of Commons, Tory MPs like to laugh when Keir Starmer talks about his time as a lawyer. However today (17 April) he used all his skills from his time as Director of Public Prosecutions to skewer Sunak.

He started by bringing up Liz Truss’ bizarre and hubristic comments about her time in No10. This is easy fodder for Labour. In response, Sunak made the point that he had in fact said that Truss’ unfunded tax cuts would crash the economy.

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This led Starmer neatly on to questions about the PM’s ambition to get rid of National Insurance. This bungled announcement was not officially part of the Budget, and so was not assessed by the Office for Budget Responsibility. Three times, Sunak refused to rule out cutting the state pension or NHS or raising income tax. Voters may be getting deja-vu from Truss.

This clever questioning from Starmer gave him a comfortable victory in today’s PMQs.

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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