Jeremy Hunt doubles down on £100,000 salaries: ‘It doesn’t go as far as you might think’

The chancellor of the exchequer has stood by his comments that £100,000 is “not a huge salary” in his constituency, explaining that it “doesn’t go as far as you might think”.

Jeremy Hunt came under fire after posting on social media earlier this week that he wanted to “sort out” government childcare eligibility for a parent who earns over £100,000.

In a post, Mr Hunt said: “I spoke to a lady from Godalming about eligibility for the government’s childcare offer which is not available if one parent is earning over £100k. That is an issue I would really like to sort out after the next election as I am aware that it is not [a] huge salary in our area if you have a mortgage to pay.”

The Godalming MP has now doubled down on his comments, explaining that the average cost of property in his constituency is over 670,000 and “if you’ve got a mortgage and you’ve got childcare costs, It doesn’t go as far as you think”.

The average cost of a property in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency of Godalming is over £670,000 (PA)
The average cost of a property in Jeremy Hunt’s constituency of Godalming is over £670,000 (PA)

Mr Hunt’s comments drew criticism, as £100,000 is almost three times the national average salary for someone in full-time work, which is £34,963 according to the Office for National Statistics.

Speaking onSky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, Mr Hunt said: “That’s why I want to give help to families and that’s why the childcare measures are very important.

“We weren’t able to afford to fund childcare for people on the highest salaries, but I was simply saying that’s something I’d love to be able to look at in the next parliament, but we can’t afford to do it now.”

Mr Hunt was also forced to defend the Conservative’s economic record after it was put to him that the Conservatives had presided over a fall in living standards that is “very, very unusual in our lifetimes”. Last month the UK entered a technical recession after GDP fell for two quarters in a row.

Mr Hunt delivered national insurance tax cuts in his spring budget (PA)
Mr Hunt delivered national insurance tax cuts in his spring budget (PA)

Real GDP per person has also fallen in every quarter since the start of 2022.

The chancellor responded that the decline in living standards was due to “two things that haven’t happened for half a century or more” in the form of a “once-in-a-century pandemic and a 1970s-style energy shock caused by the invasion of Ukraine.”

He also insisted that “living standards have actually gone up since 2010 in real terms by about £1,700 per household”.

In a heated exchange between Mr Phillips and Mr Hunt, the chancellor insisted that although the government had had to make “difficult decisions” in the wake of the dual crises, the government was still committed to cutting taxes. Mr Hunt cut national insurance tax by a further 2 percentage points in his recent spring budget following another 2 per cent decrease in Autumn.

But Mr Phillips pointed out that taxes are still going up, adding: “You’ve made a couple of cuts in national insurance, but the movements of the thresholds are a thing.”

As the pair spoke over each other, Mr Hunt argued: “You can’t just mention things and then not let me respond … yes, taxes have gone up… the question in British politics is do you think they need to stay high, or do you want to start to bring them down.”

Hunt challenged shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves on the contents of her Mais lecture (PA)
Hunt challenged shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves on the contents of her Mais lecture (PA)

Mr Hunt insisted that his party was still committed to bringing down the tax burden: “My budgets have actually reduced the tax burden by about 0.6 per cent of GDP.

“But I've always been completely open about the fact that we have had to put taxes up to deal with that pandemic and it was right to support families through the pandemic and the energy crisis. But the question now is whether you want to bring them down.”

The chancellor also attacked his opposition counterpart. He stated that shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves is “not confronting any of those difficult decisions” and “we didn't hear a single thing about welfare reform or controlling migration in [the] Mais lecture”.

Earlier in the week, Ms Reeves delivered an hour-long lecture about Labour’s economic policies.

Mr Hunt added: “In the Mais lecture, the shadow chancellor didn't mention bringing down the tax burden once. I have now brought down taxes significantly in an autumn statement, and in the budget.”

The chancellor’s assessment follows comments made by the deputy prime minister that Ms Reeves is “wolf in sheep’s clothing” after the shadow chancellor’s economic policies were compared to that of Margaret Thatcher.

In her Mais lecture, Ms Reeves said: “As we did at the end of the 1970s, we stand at an inflection point, and as in earlier decades, the solution lies in wide-ranging supply-side reform to drive investment, remove the blockages constraining our productive capacity, and fashion a new economic settlement, drawing on evolutions in economic thought.”

But Oliver Dowden has said he was not “not fooled” by Labour’s policies. Writing in TheSun on Sunday, he said: “I was amused this week to see Labour’s Rachel Reeves trying to portray herself as the next Margaret Thatcher.

“Wasn’t it just a few years ago that she was knocking on doors, persuading people that the socialist Jeremy Corbyn should be in No 10? But I’m not fooled, and I don’t think The Sun on Sunday readers will be. Ms Reeves’ self-portrait as Thatcher really is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”