Kay Burley and work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith on Sky (Photo: Sky News)
Kay Burley put the work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith under pressure over the mini-budget on Monday, asking her directly: “Are you just going to ignore those figures?”
Smith was tasked with defending the government’s controversial fiscal event, which chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled last week.
He announced he was scrapping the 45p income tax rate for the highest earners and ending the cap on bankers’ bonuses.
Since then, the pound has plummeted to its lowest level against the US dollar, at just over $1.03, since decimalisation in 1971.
Interviewing Smith on Sky News, host Burley pointed out: ”You are going to lift the ban on bankers’ bonuses but you are not going to bring back [the] universal credit [uplift].
“We did the calculations on the back of an envelope, and apparently someone earning a million pounds will save £55,220 a year under Kwarteng’s new budget.
“That’s not the bankers’ bonuses that’s just bringing down the top rate of tax.”
At the moment, annual pay-outs for bankers are now limited to twice their salary.
Burley continued: “That equates to 53 years of universal uplift. Should you not look at that again?”
Smith replied: “Well, first of all Kay, I’m delighted that your figures were on the back of an envelope. That’s reassuring to your viewers.”
“Well, I wonder how Kwasi Kwarteng’s are done,” Burley hit back.
Smith then said the government’s key point was cutting tax “across a range of points” – but Burley interrupted her and noted: “Are you just going to ignore those figures?”
The cabinet minister just claimed that the mini-budget would lead to “growth” and opportunity.
Burley also pointed out that the government has no plan to reinstate the £20 universal credit uplift, a temporary move Smith claimed was solely linked to the pandemic – but the ban on bankers’ bonuses has been lifted.
But, Smith said that Burley had missed the point about where those financial services jobs come from.
“We want those jobs to be in this country,” she said, claiming that the package does just that.
“You ask me what I’d like to see for universal credit claimants? I’d like to see greater opportunities, more jobs, better jobs, that’s why this growth package has been the right one,” Smith concluded.
"A millionaire will have another £55,220 next year as a result of cutting the top rate of tax - that's 53 years of universal credit" - @KayBurley
MP Chloe Smith insists the govt's growth package is the "right one" despite the pound plummeting#KayBurleyhttps://t.co/PAiZ4D1jU3pic.twitter.com/wKrYb7PFWu
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 26, 2022
Asked if the government was “alarmed” over the way the pound has dropped in the markets, the cabinet minister said she and her colleagues are “extremely focused” on growth.
As Smith insisted the government was on the “right path to help people into jobs”, Burley said: “So everybody is out of the step apart from the government?”
The minister replied: “Do you not want people to be in jobs, Kay? How would you argue that point?”
The Sky News host replied, quickly: “I do the questions, you do the answers.”
But the minister just continued claiming that the government was focused on the medium and long term strategy.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.