Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt today postponed a key financial announcement due to take place on Halloween to give them more time to ‘get under the bonnet’ of the nation’s broken finances.
The fiscal statement due to be held on October 31 will now be held on November 17, they told the new look Cabinet this morning.
It came as the new Prime Minister prepared for his first face-off with Labour’s Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.
The statement was originally set for November 23 by former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, but he was forced to bring it forward amid economic turmoil created by last month’s mini-Budget.
The markets have been calmed by the replacement of Mr Kwarteng and Liz Truss in the top jobs, potentially giving the new team more time to play with.
But they are facing a serious task of how to find savings to fill in a black hole in the public coffers of up to £40billion.
Mr Hunt said today that he had discussed the plan last night with the Bank of England, after Kwarteng left Andrew Bailey out of the loop.
Mr Hunt told broadcasters: ‘I want to confirm that it will demonstrate debt falling over the medium term which is really important for people to understand.
‘But it’s also extremely important that that statement is based on the most accurate possible economic forecasts and forecasts of public finances.
‘And for that reason the Prime Minister and I have decided it is prudent to make that statement on November 17 when it will be upgraded to a full autumn statement.’
The new Prime Minister convened his Cabinet this morning ahead of his first face-off with Labour’s Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Hunt said today that he had discussed the plan last night with the Bank of England, after Kwarteng left Andrew Bailey out of the loop.
Mr Sunak will meet Kwarteng’s successor Jeremy Hunt (pictured today in Downing St) and could push it back by either days or weeks to give them more time to assess the situation they have inherited.
Ministers including Education Secretary Gillian Keegan began arriving in Downing Street this morning ahead of the Cabinet meeting. Michael Gove arrived early to help Mr Sunak prepare for his first PMQs
Transport Secretary Mark Harper and Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab walk into No10 Downing Street this morning
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt arrived for Cabinet this morning with Chief Whip Simon Hart, while Environment Secretary Therese Coffey arrived with Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick
Mr Cleverly said: ‘The Prime Minister and the Chancellor know they need to work quickly on this but they also want to get it right, so we’ll see what happens to that date.’
Zelensky invites Sunak to Ukraine as pair hold first phone call
Rishi Sunak stepped up to the international stage last night taking calls from world leaders as he laid down the foundations for his premiership.
The new PM had earlier hit headlines with a dramatic cabinet reshuffle that saw him displace key Truss allies while retaining Jeremy Hunt as Chancellor and James Cleverly as Foreign Secretary and reappointing Suella Braverman to the Home Office.
Hours after his cabinet reshuffle, Mr Sunak took a call from US president Joe Biden and discussed the war in Ukraine, as the US President called the UK his country’s ‘closest ally’. This was despite the president earlier mispronouncing the PM’s name as ‘Rashee Sanook’ in his congratulatory speech.
The new Prime Minister will meet Joe Biden in the coming weeks at the G20 summit in Indonesia.
Sunak reiterated the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and US by referring to the two countries ‘the closest of allies’ in an Instagram post, alongside a picture of himself taking the call.
The PM also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and pledged the UK would continue to provide support as it defends itself from Russian aggression. Zelensky in turn invited Sunak to visit Ukraine.
Yesterday, the PM received congratulatory messages from a host of other world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Gloria Meloni, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
But not all reactions were quite as welcoming, as Russia acknowledged the new Prime Minister in the frostiest of terms.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in Moscow, ‘we do not see any preconditions, grounds, or hope that in the foreseeable future there will be any positive changes’ in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Russia.
In a statement, a No10 spokeswoman said: ‘The Prime Minister and the Chancellor agreed that the fiscal event would now take place on the November 17, and would be an Autumn Statement.
‘He (the chancellor) said it is important to reach the right decisions and there is time for those decisions to be confirmed with Cabinet.
‘The Autumn Statement will set out how we will put public finances on a sustainable footing and get debt falling in the medium term and will be accompanied by a full forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility.
It came as the head of the International Monetary Fund backed Mr Sunak to steer Britain towards fiscal sustainability.
Kristalina Georgieva said today he was right to warn the public of difficult decisions ahead and welcomed what she said was Sunak’s clarity and constructive attitude that she knew from his time as finance minister.
She expects to speak to the recently appointed finance minister Jeremy Hunt in coming days.
‘The new prime minister comes with a platform that he has shaped during his days as a chancellor, and it is one of being very prudent in bringing fiscal discipline in the UK,’ she said in Berlin.
‘I listened carefully to him talking to the British people, and this is a message that should resonate across the world. These are tough times, and tough times require tough decisions.’
Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Sarah Olney said: ‘This delay risks leaving mortgage borrowers, pensioners and struggling families under a damaging cloud of uncertainty.
‘Rishi Sunak must confirm now that benefits and pensions will be up-rated in line with inflation, and there will be no cuts to our NHS and other crucial public services.’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had earlier hinted this morning that a delay could occur. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Obviously the date of that fiscal statement was originally set with no expectation of a change of prime minister. We’ve now had a change of prime minister.
‘Thankfully that’s happened very quickly, because nobody wants uncertainty.
‘But the Prime Minister was appointed less than 24 hours ago. He is in the process of forming a Government. He will want some time with his Chancellor to make sure that the fiscal statement matches his priorities.
‘Now, I don’t know whether that means that date is going to slip but, as you suggested, the current date is only a couple of days away.
‘The Prime Minister and the Chancellor know they need to work quickly on this but they also want to get it right, so we’ll see what happens to that date.’
When it was put to him that a delay would bring more uncertainty, Mr Cleverly said that ‘a short delay, in order to make sure that we get this right, I think that is not necessarily a bad thing at all’.
Last night the new PM plunged the knife in on Liz Truss with a pledge to ‘fix’ her ‘mistakes’ and win back the public’s ‘trust’.
The incoming premier addressed the nation from Downing Street after being asked to form a government by King Charles in the traditional ‘kissing hands’ ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
In a sombre speech, he warned of ‘difficult’ decisions to deal with the ‘profound economic crisis’ facing the country, saying he ‘understood’ that Britons were suffering. Rebutting jibes that he is too wealthy to identify with the struggles of ordinary people, he said: ‘I fully understand how hard things are.’
In a swipe at Boris Johnson, who dramatically pulled out of the Tory leadership battle on Sunday night, Mr Sunak said the ‘mandate’ from the 2019 election did not belong to any individual. He also stressed his government will have ‘integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level’.
Mr Sunak then embarked on a Cabinet reshuffle, with Jacob Rees-Mogg and Brandon Lewis early casualties.
A slew of further Truss appointments followed them out the door, including some who had backed him for the leadership. They included work and pensions secretary Chloe Smith, education secretary Kit Malthouse and environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena. Meanwhile Tory Party chairman Jake Berry, a close ally of Boris Johnson, also quit.
The PM will face his first Commons appearance as Prime Minister at lunchtime, as he begins the gruelling task of uniting his party and restoring the UK’s economic credibility.
The new Prime Minister will square off against Sir Keir Starmer later, fresh from appointing a new Cabinet that he hopes will bring a measure of political stability to the country.
It comes after another momentous day in British politics that saw Mr Sunak cull nearly a dozen of Ms Truss’s top-tier ministers, such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, while reviving the careers of a host of big names, including Suella Braverman, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly hinted this morning that a delay could occur. He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Obviously the date of that fiscal statement was originally set with no expectation of a change of prime minister. We’ve now had a change of prime minister.’
Johnny Mercer BACK as veterans minister weeks after his wife called Liz Truss an imbecile
Tory MP Johnny Mercer will return to the role of Veterans’ Affairs Minister just a month after his wife called Liz Truss an imbecile and compared her to a Muppet for axing him.
The Plymouth Moor View MP, 41, arrived at No10 Downing Street tonight as Rishi Sunak resurrected Suella Braverman, Dominic Raab and Michael Gove to the Cabinet while keeping Jeremy Hunt on as Chancellor.
The news of his reappointment was announced on No10’s social media page and his wife, Felicity Cornelius-Mercer, tweeted: ‘So proud of him and huge thanks to the creators and signers of the petition too.
‘I wasn’t sure that he would want the front bench again; it was so bruising last time but ultimately he couldn’t say no for Veterans causes.’
The former British Army officer previously revealed that Ms Truss laughed at him when she sacked him as Veterans Minister, adding that the move was a ‘gut punch’ that sent him into depression.
As soon as she took office on September 6, Ms Truss removed him from his post and folded his responsibility for veteran care into James Heappey’s role as Defence Minister.
‘When this happened it was such a gut punch. I remember Liz kind of laughing while she did it,’ Mr Mercer said in an interview for the Men’s Health Talking Heads series by Alastair Campbell.
Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday will be the first test of how unified the party is behind its new leader, after Mr Sunak used his first public address on Tuesday to brace the country for ‘difficult decisions’ as he criticised much of the legacy left behind by Liz Truss’s brief tenure.
‘Some mistakes were made. Not born of ill will or bad intentions – quite the opposite in fact. But mistakes nonetheless,’ he said.
‘I’ve been elected as leader of my party and your Prime Minister in part to fix them – and that work begins immediately.’
Volodymyr Zelensky and Joe Biden were among the first world leaders Mr Sunak spoke to on Tuesday evening, as he told the Ukrainian president that the UK’s support for the war-torn country would be as ‘strong as ever under his premiership’.
He also made time to speak with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, in a stark contrast with Ms Truss.
It is expected that the first meeting of Mr Sunak’s new-look Cabinet could come as soon as Wednesday morning, in what would amount to a gathering of Sunak allies, former Truss backers and figures too from the right-wing of the party.
A No 10 source said that the new Cabinet ‘brings the talents of the party together’ and that it reflects a ‘unified party’.
Mr Raab, who was among several Sunak loyalists rewarded with key roles, was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and won a return to Justice Secretary.
Elsewhere, Mark Harper was handed the role of Transport Secretary, while former Education Secretary Sir Gavin Williamson returned to Government as minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office.
Opponents and rivals took some spots too, with Penny Mordaunt kept in place as Commons leader while Truss ally Therese Coffey became Environment Secretary.
There was also a return to his old role of Levelling Up Secretary for Michael Gove, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary James Cleverly both kept their jobs.
The most controversial appointment however came in the return of Suella Braverman to Home Secretary, only days after she dramatically quit the Government after being accused of breaching the ministerial code.
Mr Sunak, who earlier promised that his new Government would be one of ‘integrity’, immediately faced questions about the decision to re-hire Ms Braverman as Labour accused the new PM of ‘putting party before country’.
Rishi Sunak does something on his first day that Liz Truss didn’t do in six weeks: speak to Nicola Sturgeon
Rishi Sunak spoke to the first ministers of Scotland and Wales on Tuesday evening in constructive talks, emphasising their ‘duty’ to work together in order to respond to the UK’s ‘shared challenges’.
In a marked contrast to predecessor Liz Truss, Mr Sunak spoke to Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford following the conclusion of his cabinet reshuffle.
Ms Truss is not believed to have spoken to either leader about policy, sharing only a few words with Ms Sturgeon at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
During the summer leadership election, Ms Truss came under fire for saying she would ‘ignore’ Ms Sturgeon.
Following the conversation last night, Mr Sunak said it was ‘good to speak to’ Mr Drakeford and Ms Sturgeon. He tweeted: ‘I emphasised our duty to work closely together to respond to the shared challenges we face, so that collectively we can deliver for the people of the United Kingdom.’
Ms Sturgeon said the call had been ‘constructive’, tweeting: ‘I expressed hope that we will build a UK/Scottish Government relationship based on mutual respect – including for mandates – and my fear that further austerity will do real damage to people and public services.
‘I look forward to further engagement soon.’
Following the call, a Scottish Government spokesperson said Ms Sturgeon congratulated Mr Sunak on his appointment and wished him well.
‘She expressed her hope that political differences notwithstanding, they would build a constructive working relationship,’ the spokesperson said.
‘She made clear that the Scottish Government would do everything possible to establish such a constructive relationship but stressed that this must be built on mutual respect.’
Ms Sturgeon said the UK Government should ‘address the pressure’ and pain being felt by people and businesses as a result of other economic pressures and further austerity could exacerbate the problems.
It is understood Mr Sunak ‘assured’ Ms Sturgeon the UK Government would engage with the devolved governments ahead of the Chancellor’s forthcoming budget statement.
Mr Drakeford said he took the opportunity to congratulate Mr Sunak on his appointment as prime minister.
The Welsh Labour leader tweeted: ‘Tonight, I spoke to the Prime Minister.
‘A chance to congratulate the Prime Minister and discuss the importance of working together as four nations to address the urgent challenges we face as a United Kingdom.’
Earlier this month, Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s political editor Chris Mason she had not had a conversation with former prime minister Liz Truss since she was appointed on September 6, other than ‘an exchange or two’ at events following the death of the Queen.
‘It’s quite absurd in many ways. When I became First Minister, David Cameron was prime minister and I think we spoke on the phone the first night I became First Minister,’ she said.
‘I spoke on the phone to Theresa May within a day or two of her becoming prime minister, same with Boris Johnson actually.
‘I have deep political differences with all of these politicians, but we have a duty to work together constructively.’
Welsh government minister Jane Hutt said Ms Truss had not contacted Mr Drakeford during her brief spell in office.
Rishi Sunak puts his hope in a team of loyal backers (and a few surprises)… so who’s who in the new Prime Minister’s Cabinet?
Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister
Mr Raab’s stint on the backbenches following Liz Truss’s reshuffle was a brief one, having been rewarded for his loyalty to Rishi Sunak with a return to Government.
Conservative MP Dominic Raab arrives for a meeting with newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street yesterday
Newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak waves to members of the media before entering 10 Downing Street after delivering his first speech
The karate blackbelt and former Foreign Office lawyer will be given an opportunity to pick up where he left off under Boris Johnson, as Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary.
Chancellor of the Exchequer
A vastly experienced minister across the many departments, Mr Hunt replaced Kwasi Kwarteng as Chancellor this month.
He put in a measured performance from the Commons despatch box as he tore up Miss Truss’s tax-cutting plans, calming the markets.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt stands outside 10 Downing Street yesterday as he is reappointed to the role
Mr Hunt, the longest-serving health secretary in British political history, keeps his job and remains in No 11 Downing Street.
Mrs Braverman is a leading figure on the Right of the party, and came out in support of Rishi Sunak during the latest leadership contest.
She returns as Home Secretary, a week after she was forced out of Government for breaking the ministerial code after emailing a sensitive document from a personal account.
Glad to be back: Suella Braverman strides out of No10 yesterday
Often outspoken, she recently blamed eco-protests across the country on ‘the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’.
Mr Cleverly retains his job as Foreign Secretary – one of the Great Offices of State – despite being an old ally of Boris Johnson. In fact, Mr Cleverly publicly endorsed Mr Johnson for PM in the latest leadership race and had previously been a staunch backer of Liz Truss.
Retaining former soldier Mr Wallace as Defence Secretary is likely to be an attempt to soothe the military community amid growing unease over defence spending. The Sandhurst graduate has been in post for more than three years, making him one of the longest-serving ministers to hold the same position.
Mr Barclay returns to his job in Government having previously been sacked as Health Secretary as part of Liz Truss’s reshuffle. He previously held the role for two months and was memorably interrupted by a heckler while giving an interview outside a hospital. Mr Barclay worked with Rishi Sunak at the Treasury during the pandemic. He will be expected to get a grip on NHS spending.
Minister Without Portfolio
Mr Zahawi earned a reputation during the pandemic as a safe pair of hands and skilled media performer. But the former vaccine minister’s magic touch well and truly deserted him during the two recent Tory leadership races after a series of loyalty flip-flops.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Mr Dowden now holds the most senior Cabinet position after the PM. The ex-Culture Secretary has been rewarded for his unwavering support during the leadership races. He quit as party chairman after taking responsibility for the Tories’ disastrous by-election defeats in two seats in the summer.
Grant Shapps who has been appointed Business Secretary after briefly being appointed as Home Secretary by ex-PM Liz Truss, leaves Downing Street
Mr Shapps is another to have served across multiple government departments, most recently as Home Secretary less than a week ago following the departure of Suella Braverman. He was a prominent figure during the pandemic as transport secretary.
Passed the test: Gillian Keegan is the new Education Secretary
Mrs Keegan is the fifth person this year to hold the position of Education Secretary. She spent a year as health minister before moving to the Foreign Office as part of Liz Truss’s doomed premiership.
She was forced to apologise earlier this year for an ‘error of judgment’ after continuing a meeting with grieving fathers despite testing positive for Covid part- way through.
Penny Mordaunt has been appointed Britain’s Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
In a major humiliation, there was no big promotion for Miss Mordaunt, the former magician’s assistant who holds on to her position as Leader of the House of Commons.
She stood against Mr Sunak for the leadership this weekend, but pulled out at the last moment when it became clear she did not have the backing of enough MPs.
She appears to have paid the price for her failure to strike a deal with her rival.
Work and Pensions Secretary
Mr Stride is well known to Rishi Sunak, having managed his campaign to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. He publicly criticised Liz Truss’s ill-fated mini-Budget, saying it had put the Conservative Party’s reputation for managing the economy in jeopardy. The chairman of the Treasury Select Committee is a former president of the Oxford Union.
A big demotion on the face of it for ex-health secretary Miss Coffey, though the fact she remains in Government despite her support of Liz Truss suggests the PM was keen to appease his predecessor’s followers. The self-confessed karaoke fan admitted she was ‘not the role model’ when it came to her own health after being questioned about her lifestyle. She left Downing Street yesterday by announcing she was ‘going home to Defra’ – a department which she served in for three years from 2016.
The former Welsh Secretary is not exactly a household name. But he takes on one of the most significant roles in Government, responsible for ensuring discipline within the Conservative Parliamentary Party.
SIR GAVIN WILLIAMSON
Minister Without Portfolio
The former education secretary and master of the parliamentary arts and will attend Cabinet, a clear reward for his staunch backing of Mr Sunak’s campaign.
Other appointments yesterday: Michelle Donelan, Culture Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, International Trade Secretary, Mark Harper, Transport Secretary, Chris Heaton-Harris, Northern Ireland Secretary, Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, David TC Davies, Secretary of State for Wales, Lord True, Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords, Victoria Prentis, Attorney General, Jeremy Quin, Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office, John Glen, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Johnny Mercer, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Tom Tugendhat, Security Minister, Robert Jenrick, Immigration Minister, Andrew Mitchell, Minister for Development