PMQs: Johnson deflects Starmer's windfall tax call – 'This man struggled to define what a woman was’

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer traded blows in the House of Commons in the first PMQs since the Queen's Speech

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the opportunity to ridicule the Labour leader rather than address Sir Keir's questions on whether the Government will introduce a windfall tax.

Sir Keir said: “A one-off tax on huge oil and tax profits would raise billions of pounds, cutting energy bills across the country.

"The Chancellor rightly says there are two camps on this. You are either for it or you’re against it.

“But which camp did the Chancellor put himself in? He says neither. Well, I’m in favour of it. The question for the Prime Minister is: is he for it? Is he against it? Or is he sitting on the fence like his Chancellor?”

But when challenged, the PM simply replied: "I just remind the House the right honourable gentleman struggled to define what a woman was."

Sir Keir accused the PM of "dithering" over whether to target large oil and gas companies to ease the cost-of-living crisis for working Brits, and for not making a clear policy decision.

But Mr Johnson used Sir Keir's words against him, saying "heaven help us" and hitting out at the Labour leader for "not making his mind up" on the definition of a woman".

Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson at PMQs
Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson at PMQs

He insisted that “this Government is not in principle in favour of higher taxation”.

Mr Johnson said: “What we want to do is take a sensible approach governed by the impact on investment and jobs and that is the test of a strong economy and it is by having a strong economy that we will be able to look after people as we have done during Covid and and as we will do in the aftershocks of Covid.

“And I’m proud to say, this week, it was revealed that unemployment has come down to the lowest level since 1974 when I was 10 years old.”

The Prime Minister then promised to “look at all the measures we need to take to get people through to the other side” after inflation hit a 40-year high in April.

Sir Keir during PMQs
Sir Keir during PMQs
Boris Johnson led PMQs for the first time since the Queen's Speech
Boris Johnson led PMQs for the first time since the Queen's Speech

It comes after the rate of Consumer Prices Index inflation increased to nine percent in April from seven percent in March, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

It was the fastest measured rate since records began in 1989, and the ONS estimates it was the highest since 1982.

A large portion of the rise was due to the price cap on energy bills, which was hiked by 54 percent for the average household at the start of April.

Labour want to introduce a windfall tax to deflect the cost burden onto large oil and gas companies, rather than working Brits.

And Sir Keir urged the Prime Minister to stop the “hokey-cokey” and back Labour’s plan for a windfall tax.

He said: “Last week, he said ‘we will have a look at it’. Yesterday, he voted against it.

"Anyone picking up the papers today would think they are for it.

"And now he says he is against it again. Clear as mud.

“To be fair, it’s not like the rest of his Cabinet know what they think either.

"The same day the Chancellor said it was something he was looking at, the Justice Secretary said it would be disastrous.

"The Business Secretary called it a bad idea. But also said he would consider a Spanish-style windfall tax.

"One minute they’re ruling it in. The next, they are ruling it out. When will he stop the hokey-cokey and just back Labour’s plan for a windfall tax to cut household bills?”

Ian Blackford also waded in on the cost-of-living crisis
Ian Blackford also waded in on the cost-of-living crisis
Boris Johnson remained defiant
Boris Johnson remained defiant

Mr Johnson replied: “This country and the world faces problems in the cost of energy driven partly by Covid and partly by (Vladimir) Putin’s war of choice in Ukraine.

"And we know, we always knew that there will be a a short-term cost in weaning ourselves off Putin’s hydrocarbons, and in sanctioning the Russian economy.

“Everybody in this House voted for those sanctions. We knew that it would be tough, but I just want to tell the right honourable gentleman that giving in, not sticking the course would ultimately be that far greater economic risk.”

After Mr Johnson's exchange with Sir Keir, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford chimed in to ask if the Prime Minister supports “his Chancellor’s insulting statement that acting now, in this cost-of-living emergency, would just be silly”.

Mr Blackford said: “People didn’t need to see this morning’s official statistics to know that we’re experiencing the highest inflation in 40 years, they know it because they’re living with it.

“Families can’t afford food. They can’t pay their bills. And we’re only at the beginning. And as always under the Tories the poorest are punished the most. For months people have been crying out for support, but month after month a distracted Downing Street has failed to lift a finger to help.

“Does the Prime Minister still support his Chancellor’s insulting statement that acting now, in this cost-of-living emergency, would just be silly.”

The Prime Minister said: “I support the Chancellor’s work in lifting the living wage by a record amount, by making sure people on Universal Credit pay £1,000 less in tax, by putting another £22 billion into supporting people with the cost of living, £9.1 billion already to help people with the cost of energy.

“And above all I support what he has done to deliver a strong economic foundation which makes all that possible.”