Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street

Conservative Party must be ‘decent and humane’, justice secretary Alex Chalk says

The Conservative Party must be “decent and humane”, the justice secretary has said. 

It come as the chancellor is considering real-terms cuts to benefits in the government’s autumn statement.

Alex Chalk, a moderate Conservative MP appointed justice secretary in April, urged his colleagues that Conservatism must provide support to the most disadvantaged in society, adding.

This appears to put Chalk at odds with the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, who is weighing real-term cuts to benefits.

Hunt is reportedly considering capping benefit rises next April to free up cash for tax cuts ahead of the general election.

According to a report from Bloomberg, which cited people close to Hunt, real-terms benefits cuts were among cost-saving options being drawn up for the chancellor before the autumn statement, scheduled for 23 November.

It would see the government break with the tradition of lifting working benefits in line with inflation.

Asked by Sunday Morning With Trevor Phillips on Sky News if he would be comfortable with the plan, Chalk said: “We must do everything we can for the most disadvantaged in society. That is why we put up the benefits by 10.1 per cent and also universal credit, but also pensions as well.

“We want to ensure, I will want to ensure, my colleagues will want to ensure, that we are decent, humane and we want to support people.” 

Phillips replied: “I am taking that as a no.” 

Chalk responded: “Take it as you like.”

Although a source subsequently told the Times newspaper that Chalk was not in fact expressing a view on the plans and that it was a “matter for the chancellor”.

Speaking to broadcasters at the G20 summit in Delhi, prime minister Rishi Sunak declined to “speculate” about Hunt’s plans ahead of the Autumn Statement when asked if he could guarantee benefits would rise with inflation.

Speaking to broadcasters at the G20 summit in New Delhi, the PM said there was a legal process which was worked through “every year to do benefits uprating and a whole host of other things”.

“And those decisions are announced at the Autumn Statement, that’s entirely normal”, he added.

However, the PM did commit to the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, which sees the state pension rise each April by whatever is highest out of average earnings, inflation, or 2.5 per cent.

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