UK PM delays crunch budget plan
The public needs a fresh start: Labour leader Starmer
Published: Oct 26, 2022 10:02 PM
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday postponed an eagerly awaited budget plan due next week, as the youthful new leader got down to business after weeks of political turmoil. 

Following a meeting of his new cabinet, Sunak was set to engage in his first parliamentary joust against opposition ­Labour leader Keir Starmer, who is demanding a snap general election.

"The Tories have crashed the economy, with low wages, high prices and a cost-of-living crisis," Starmer said, in a taste of the attack to come during the Prime Minister's Questions. 

"The public needs a fresh start and a say on Britain's future."

But Sunak, 42, ruled out an early election as he vowed stability and fiscal rectitude following his appointment by King Charles III on Tuesday to succeed Liz Truss after she served just 49 days in Downing Street.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt - retained in ­Sunak's cabinet along with other senior ministers - said that Monday's planned "medium-term fiscal statement" was no longer so pressing.

Instead, there will be a full budget statement on November 17 to lay out the new government's tax and spending plans, Hunt told reporters.

"Now, we have a new prime minister and the prospect of much longer-term stability for the economy," he said, stressing the new plan would be ­accompanied by fresh ­economic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). 

Hunt said he had discussed the delay with Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey - who had been blindsided by Truss' previous ill-conceived plan for tax cuts financed by extra borrowing, which sent markets into a tailspin. 

The delay would ensure the budget can "stand the test of time" to give British mortgage holders and businesses more assurance, Hunt said, after the Truss plan provoked a damaging spike in borrowing costs and torpedoed her premiership.

Markets were unperturbed by the postponement, suggesting Hunt and Sunak have successfully calmed investor nerves.

Sunak vowed to restore "trust" and "integrity" in government after Truss' financial carnage and the many controversies that brought down Boris Johnson before her.

But for critics, the new leader undermined his own pledges by also re-appointing the hardline right-winger Suella Braverman as interior minister, days after she was forced to resign for a security breach.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly - also retained by Sunak - said Braverman had shown contrition for her "mistake" in emailing classified government documents outside her department.  

The documents reportedly included market-sensitive information from the OBR. 

Hunt declined to confirm this, while Cleverly denied allegations that Sunak reappointed Braverman after a secret deal securing her support against Johnson's audacious comeback bid.

As well as mending Britain's wounded finances, Sunak is also pledging to reunite the Conservatives after another bruising leadership contest, mere weeks after Johnson was forced out.