Jeremy Hunt has said he regrets the turbulence caused by Liz Truss’s mini-budget, but he does not believe it has caused long-term economic damage.
The independent Resolution Foundation estimated that the mistakes made by the former prime minister cost the UK £30 billion, while Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, called one of a series of economic “own targets” that have led to Britain’s bleak outlook.
But Mr. Hunt told Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews program:”I don’t recognize the figures from the Resolution Foundation.”
He added: “I don’t think there was a long-term effect because the measures they put in were reversed so quickly.
“I think what the world wanted to see was that Britain was not going to spend money it didn’t have and was committed to repaying its debt. And Rishi Sunak and I have given them that assurance.”
However, he said he accepts “we’ve had a rocky period in the last few months”.
“I wish we hadn’t had what happened with the mini-budget and all the turbulence that happened there,” he said.
When Mrs Truss announced a raft of unfunded tax cuts in September, it contributed to the financial chaos which sent markets into freefall, the value of the pound plummeted, mortgage rates soared and forced the Bank of England to step in to stop pension funds from to collapse.
This ultimately led to her downfall as Mr Hunt was called upon to reverse almost all the economic policies that won her the Tory leadership election, triggered by the resignation of Boris Johnson.
Hunt refused to apologize for the turmoil, saying “actions speak louder than words”.
“I think we’ve demonstrated that we believe what happened was wrong. We’ve corrected it and we’ve put the country back on track,” he said.
The chancellor presented his long-awaited autumn statement to parliament last Thursdayfilled with stealth taxes and restrictions on public spending of £55 billion in an attempt to close the black hole in the public finances.
The measures will leave around 55% of households worse off, according to the Treasury’s own analysis, while the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) warned disposable income for UK households will fall by 7.1% over the next two years – the biggest drop ever.
Hunt has accepted “challenging times” lie ahead but insisted his tax increases were not “just misery for misery’s sake”.
“It was to make sure we really have the bright future that everyone wants,” he said.
He repeated his insistence that the problems facing the UK economy are global as he dismissed forecasts that trade was being hit by Brexit.
The OBR has predicted that Brexit will cause a 4% GDP reduction in the longer term, equivalent to around £100 billion in lost trade and around £40 billion in tax revenue.
But Mr Hunt said he did not accept those figures.
“I do not accept that Brexit is the cause of the great economic difficulties we face,” he said.
“Brexit is a choice Britain as a country has made. And whether we want to make a success of it or not is a choice we now have to make.
“The main reason for the decline in our economic picture is high international energy prices.”
Hunt was speaking in Birmingham after meeting apprentices who were working on the HS2 programme.
Some Conservative MPs have spoken out against the expensive project, with senior backbencher Esther McVey saying she will not support his tax hikes unless the project is scrapped.
However, Hunt said the project was an integral part of the Conservatives’ leveling agenda.
“We will not compromise on the really big projects that make a difference to our economy. And HS2 is one of them.”