Sajid Javid has said he would like to see the government “do more on tax cuts”, adding to the pressure on Boris Johnson from senior Conservatives after the damaging revolt over his leadership.
The health secretary said he thought Conservative MPs were prepared to get behind the prime minister, and argued it would be “grossly unfair” to change the rules to allow another vote on ousting him.
But he also added his voice to other senior Tories calling for tax cuts, which Johnson had promised as he addressed his MPs in an attempt to save his leadership on Monday.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, Javid said: “I’d like to see us do more on tax cuts and I’m someone just like, I think, every member of the government, all [of] my colleagues, we want to see taxes as low as possible.
“I’m pleased that there have been targeted tax cuts already. The recent budget, I think I’m right in saying, (means) some 70% of people, those that are lower paid, will pay less national insurance than before.”
When it was put to him that overall the tax burden was rising, he cited the challenges of the pandemic. But he added: “But I would like to see cuts where they’re possible. And I know that this is something the government is taking very seriously and I know that it’s something that the chancellor will look at.”
Johnson and his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, will give a speech on the economy next week, but it is not clear that they will outline any specific or immediate tax cuts beyond outlining a broad direction of travel.
A No 10 source made clear that the economy speech would not include new personal tax cuts as demanded by many backbenchers, saying: “It will not be anything fiscal. It’s a very difficult balance because while everyone wants to cut taxes, we do also have to be fiscally responsible,” the source added.
A string of high-profile MPs, from Steve Baker on the party’s right wing to Damian Green on its left, on Monday backed a fresh demand from the Adam Smith Institute for the government to reduce the tax burden.
Since Monday’s vote, which Johnson won by 211 votes to 148, he has sought to draw a line under discontent in his party. However, some critics of his leadership have vowed to carry on opposing him and have discussed pushing to change the rules of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers to allow another confidence vote within the next 12 months.
Speaking on Times Radio, Javid said the rebels against Johnson should not seek a change to the rules, which say that a prime minister cannot face another confidence vote for 12 months.
He told Times Radio: “I think most people would think if you sort of changed the rules it would be grossly unfair, it would be the wrong thing to do. So I wouldn’t support that … And if anyone wants to exercise the current rules, which they did, that’s totally their right and I respect my colleagues for that, but the decision has been made.”
Javid described the vote as a “clear and decisive win” for the prime minister. He also claimed that some of those who voted against Johnson were now prepared to get behind him: “Some that I spoke to that publicly said they didn’t support the prime minister in the vote, but they’re democrats like all of us and they accept the result of the vote and they’re getting behind the prime minister.”