Labour will force a vote in parliament on an emergency budget to help with the cost of living crisis as inflation soared to 9% in April and economists warned of a recession.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, said it was “unconscionable” that the government was piling taxes on working people in the middle of a crisis and repeated calls for a windfall tax on oil and gas producers to help with energy bills.
“Today’s inflation data will add to the worries families already face as prices soar and pay packets are crunched,” she said.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is coming under intense pressure from his own backbenchers as well as Labour and the Liberal Democrats to give people more help, with calls for tax cuts and higher benefits.
Labour called for a VAT cut on energy bills and more help on energy costs for the lowest paid, while Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, called for a VAT cut across the board, saying the “warning lights are all flashing red and Boris Johnson hasn’t a second to lose”.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, acknowledged it was a “very, very difficult situation that families face” in the face of a “severe global economic storm” but declined to say what the chancellor would do about it.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, she said: “This is a very, very serious global inflation spike which is having huge effects around the world.
“We have made the cuts to petrol duty and the chancellor is working on what more we can do. The important thing is getting economic growth up.”
Sunak has repeatedly ruled out an emergency budget and a windfall tax on oil and gas companies profiting from higher prices, but both appear to be back on the table in the face of climbing inflation.
One option to avoid an emergency budget would be to promise more tax cuts in the autumn and unveil a package to help with energy costs in the short term.
MPs told the Commons on Tuesday that some of their constituents were turning to shoplifting for essentials, while another warned that he had heard of cases of attempted suicide among those who could not afford to make ends meet.
Sunak said on Wednesday: “Countries around the world are dealing with rising inflation. Today’s inflation numbers are driven by the energy price cap rise in April, which in turn is driven by higher global energy prices.
“We cannot protect people completely from these global challenges but are providing significant support where we can, and stand ready to take further action.”