Rishi Sunak’s campaign has accused Liz Truss of being “divorced from reality” over her plans to prioritise tax cuts over direct government help for households facing soaring energy bills this winter.
The comments came as gas and electricity charges were forecast to hit £4,266 a year from January.
Truss has come under fire over an interview she gave to the Financial Times in which she said she was not in favour of further “handouts” to those struggling to make ends meet.
Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab, a Sunak supporter, said the proposals would be an “electoral suicide note” for the Tories if they were implemented.
Asked about her remarks today, the foreign secretary repeatedly refused to backtrack.
She said: “What I don’t believe in is taxing people to the highest level in 70 years, and then giving them their own money back,” she said.
“We are Conservatives, we believe in low taxes. What I’m not going to do is announce the next Budget in advance – of course we’ll need to deal with the circumstances as they arise – but my fundamental principle is that people should keep more of their own money.”
In response, a statement issued by the Sunak campaign said: “Liz Truss has doubled down, refusing five times to say she will provide direct support for British families and pensioners this winter.
“Under her plans Liz will get £1800 of support whilst hard working families will get as little as £60, while facing the same rises in bills.
“Liz’s plan will not touch the sides for the majority of British families this winter and pensioners will get no help whatsoever.
“It seems she is divorced from reality, something that even her own supporters including Sajid Javid agree with.
“At a time of great concern for millions of people, the country needs honesty and leadership about how we tackle the challenges we face.”
Sunak has said he “will act” to provide people with direct help to pay their bills if he becomes prime minister.
That prompted a Truss campaign source to hit back: “The question for Rishi on the economics of his new handout pledges is: how is he going to fund these new promises?
“Three weeks ago he was saying more borrowing was irresponsible and inflationary. Has he changed his mind? It’s feels like another big U-turn.
“How can Rishi’s borrowing not be inflationary, but Liz’s tax cuts are? Intellectually it’s as watertight as a sieve.”