‘You’ve been in control 10 years!’ Adam Boulton puts Leadsom on spot in low wages row

Andrea Leadsom challenged by host on 'new direction'

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Boris Johnson has said he is ready to take “big, bold decisions” to rebuild the country after Covid as the Tory Party conference opens in Manchester. Some Tories, meanwhile, fear the Government is facing a “cost of living crisis” with many households struggling to make ends meet over the winter, threatening the Government’s all-important “levelling up” agenda.  Sky News presenter Adam Boulton confronted Andrea Leadsom on her party’s strategy to increase wages after over a decade in power.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Leadsom said: “Obviously the risk of inflation is something we’ve really got to look at but what the Government is trying to do is encourage businesses to invest in capital equipment.

“To reduce some of the heavy reliance we had in the past on cheap labour, to actually create better, higher-quality jobs but also increase productivity.

“If you can actually increase productivity per capita then you see real growth in your economy.”

Mr Boulton asked: “A lot of people are going to say look we’ve had Conservative in power for the decade now and after 10 years you appear to be saying, ‘we’ve made a mess and we’re going off in a completely different direction’.

“Is that right? Why have we had low wages when you’ve been in control for 10 years?”

Ms Leadsom continued: “For more than 10 years people have really struggled to get pay rises.

“For a large part that was because wages were suppressed at the lower wage end as a result of the competition from cheap labour.”

It comes as hancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out further tax hikes as he faces pressure from within the Conservative Party about the historically high tax burden.

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Ahead of his first in-person speech to the Tory Party conference as Chancellor, Mr Sunak did not dismiss the possibility that increases to income tax or council tax may be imposed.

He will use his speech in Manchester on Monday to commit more than £500 million in fresh funding to help people back into work as he seeks to stem the continuing turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Sunak is shifting the focus to getting people into new or better jobs as the Government comes under sustained pressure over a major squeeze on living standards.

But the extra funding comes with Mr Sunak and Boris Johnson under pressure from within the Tory ranks about the historically high tax burden after they raised national insurance contributions by 1.25 percent.

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The Chancellor was asked repeatedly about whether he would approve further tax increases, including a hike to council tax to help fund social care after a warning from local authorities.

Mr Sunak told Sky News he would not “pre-empt” the local government finance settlement later in the year and added to LBC he “never can comment about future tax policy”.

Asked about a possible increase to income tax before the next election, he told BBC Breakfast: “Recently we did make a significant announcement on tax and it was a difficult decision to make, especially for a Conservative Chancellor and a Conservative Prime Minister.

“But we took that decision because we wanted to make sure the NHS got the significant funds it requires to help recover strongly from coronavirus.”

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