A Conservative Treasury minister and one of Liz Truss’s major campaign donors both said they would like to abolish inheritance tax, as they urged the prime minister to continue with her “politically brave” agenda for wealth creation.
Andrew Griffith, a City minister under Kwasi Kwarteng, said tax was not his policy area but inheritance tax would be his top choice for a tax to abolish.
Michael Spencer, a Tory peer and City financier who gave £25,0000 to Truss’s leadership campaign, also backed abolishing inheritance tax, saying it was causing wealthy people to move abroad as non-doms, and scrapping tax on share trading.
Speaking at a Centre for Policy Studies event at the Conservative party conference, Griffith said: “I shouldn’t talk about tax policy. It’s outside my lane even within the Treasury. But I have lots of my fantastic local association with me here and they will know because they asked me at my selection meeting 27 months ago which tax, if I had the choice, I would most like to see eliminated. History will record it was the inheritance tax.”
The interventions came on the Conservatives’ business day, where executives and lobbyists pay almost £3,000 for access to ministers. About 25 ministers were put up by the party for “roundtable” sessions where businesses could have direct access to those in charge of departments.
Griffith, a former executive at Sky, who attended the business day, gave a defence of the government’s agenda.
“I celebrate wealth creating and risk taking,” he told the CPS event. “We’ve got to drive that into the system. It can’t be right that the only time a businessman is ever on the BBC is that they’re greedy, underpaying their staff or exploiting consumers. That cannot be right … The answer is that we – and this is why our new prime minister is so fantastic – have to be politically brave and have the courage of our convictions. Not enough of us make first principle defences of why it’s so important.”
The Treasury minister said the case for wealth creation had to be made more to young people, particularly “our young crusty friends sitting there flying around the world on the products of capitalism, tweeting on their phones, one of the most complex supply chains ever known to man”.
Griffith also argued that “in many, many respects, government institutions are failing” as he made the case for reform without spending any more money, highlighting slow processing of visas and problems at the border as two of the problems. “Too many parts of the British state are not working as we would wish … we need new ideas,” he said.
Griffith is said to have been one of the architects of the 45p tax abolition policy before it was dropped abruptly by Kwarteng and Truss on Monday morning.
Spencer, a major Tory donor who backed Truss for the leadership, gave a wholehearted defence of the prime minister and Kwarteng following the abandonment of the 45p policy.
He told the event: “One of the messages the new administration has got across – a very powerful message – is that the chancellor and prime minister are determined to make the UK more business friendly and investment friendly than any new incoming administration for over a decade.
“What they’ve done I think in not going ahead with corporation tax rise, reversing the national insurance rise, we won’t mention income tax … but I genuinely believe their narrative, that Kwasi realised the UK needs to embrace investors, embrace new capital, embrace everything around re-energising our economy.”
But, he said, it would “make the project better” if they scrapped stamp duty on share trading, deregulated more financial services and speeded up travel through UK airports.
He also raised the prospect of scrapping inheritance tax, saying: “My view is inheritance tax is profoundly unpopular – better to call it death taxes. I would be terribly thrilled if the government contemplated that again, not least in economic terms as it means you retain capital in your own country.”
He added that he knew “a lot of people who have made considerable amounts of money and regrettably very, very many of them move their tax domicile overseas. I think that is a sad loss to the UK.”
Spencer also cited Singapore – a country with low income tax – as a country he would like to see the UK emulate.
Spencer, who founded ICAP, a City interdealer broker, is one of many figures from the world of finance who donated to Truss’s campaign. He was given a peerage by Boris Johnson in 2020 after a previous attempt was blocked over ICAP’s involvement in the Libor rate-rigging scandal, which saw the interdealer broker fined £60m in 2013 by regulators in London and New York. Spencer was not personally involved in the scandal.