Tory leadership debate: Rishi Sunak brands Liz Truss tax cut plans 'not responsible' as argument dominates BBC debate

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak has declared it would not be “responsible” to commit to the tax cuts promised by leadership rival Liz Truss as the BBC live debate quickly descended into bitter sparring between the two senior Tory figures.

Ms Truss, the foreign secretary, has committed to slashing £30 billion off taxes funded by borrowing if she is appointed to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister.

But her opponent Mr Sunak described the pledge as a “short-term sugar rush” as the debate became an argument between the two contenders.

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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss taking part in the BBC Tory leadership debate live. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

Mr Sunak said we “need to get a grip on inflation”, suggesting that his opponent’s plans would put “millions of people into misery”.

He said inflation "is the single biggest thing" that British households are having to deal with, and if taxes are cut, inflation could rise further.

But Ms Truss, who name checked growing up in Paisley, said under her plan for tax cuts, the UK Government would start paying off its resultant debt within three years.

Mr Sunak said as the situation changes on the ground regarding the cost of energy, he is “always” going to support people through it.

Rishi Sunak (left) is greeted by Director general of the BBC Tim Davie before taking part in the BBC Tory leadership debate live. Picture: Jacob King/PA Wire

Responding to the first question on the BBC televised debate, the former chancellor and Ms Truss were asked if people could expect more help with their bills if they became prime minister.

Mr Sunak said: “You may remember one of the last things I did as chancellor was announce a significant amount of support to help people get through autumn and the winter with those bills.

“And of course, as prime minister, I’d like to make sure that we always have the policies in place to support people like you, who are working incredibly hard to provide for you and your families.”

When pressed on whether he will announce more help, Mr Sunak said: “When we get in we will have to see what happens to energy bills, as the situation changes on the ground, I am always going to support people through it.”

Ms Truss has said she would “act immediately” to help people who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

She she: “I would act immediately. I understand that people here, people around the country, are struggling with some of the worst cost of living problems that we have had for generations.

“It’s hard to pay for fuel. It’s hard to pay for food. I would reverse the increase in national insurance. We promised not to raise it in our manifesto in 2019.

“The people here, who voted Conservative for the first time, expect us to fulfil our promises.

“So, I would reverse that increase in national insurance. I’d also have a temporary moratorium on the green energy levy, which would help cut money from fuel bills. That’s very important, that would come in straight away.”