Inflation hits highest rate for four decades

Hunt says inflation figures ‘strengthen the case’ for current course – as Labour blast ‘missing in action’ government

Reacting to figures today showing that inflation is stubbornly high, chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the new numbers “strengthen the case for the government to stick to its guns”.

The new figures show the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rose by 8.7 per cent in the 12 months to May, unchanged from April.

Core inflation, meanwhile, which excludes volatile elements like food and energy prices, increased to 7.1 per cent in May, up from 6.8 per cent in April.

It means core inflation in the UK economy is at its highest level in 31 years.

Mr Hunt said: “Well today’s figures strengthen the case for the government to stick to its guns, no matter what the pressure from left, right, or centre.

“We won’t be pushed off course because if we’re going to help families, if we’re going to relieve the pressure on people with mortgages, on businesses, we need to squeeze every last drop of high inflation out of the economy.

“And if you look at what’s happening in other countries, you can see that rises in interest rates do bring down inflation over time. That will happen here, but we need to be patient, we need to stick to the course, and then we’ll get to the other side”.

The chancellor also gave the Bank of England the government’s full backing ahead of tomorrow’s interest rates update, with another rise expected.

“We will not hesitate in our resolve to support the Bank of England as it seeks to squeeze inflation out of our economy, while also providing targeted support with the cost of living”, he said. 

Reacting to the chancellor’s statement today saying, Labour shadow cabinet minister Jim McMahon told Sky News he is “not sure” what Mr Hunt actually means.

He questioned if “stick to its guns” meant food inflation continuing to rise and “making the cost of living crisis harder for working people”.

The shadow environment secretary accused the government of being “either missing in action or they are so slow to take action that we’re just not seeing the progress that we need”.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves also released a statement in which she said the government “can’t get a grip of this problem because they are the problem”.

She added: “13 years of the Tories and their disastrous mini-Budget are damaging our economic security and leaving families worse off.

“Simply continuing on this Tory path of managed decline is not the summit of Labour’s ambition. We need a more secure economy, more secure family finances and a plan to help us grab hold of the opportunities before us.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney said the government is “failing miserably to bring inflation down and provide relief for struggling families facing soaring bills”.

She added: “Homeowners now face the likelihood of even more interest rate hikes adding to their monthly mortgage payments, all while the Chancellor just sits on his hands.

“It beggars belief that ministers are refusing to support hard-pressed families when it’s this Conservative government’s catastrophic failure to run the economy that caused this crisis.

“This must be the most uncaring government to ever walk into Downing Street. It’s as if ministers are living on another planet.”