Theresa May takes questions from the press

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, took questions after her stump speech this morning. She has rarely allowed access to journalists during the campaign so far, and has only taken the occasional question. 

During May’s questions she was asked if she would match Labour’s commitment not to raise employees National Insurance Contributions. The prime minister responded that she did not plan to raise taxes, but refused to rule out any rise to national insurance. She said:

It is not our intention to increase the level of tax but I’m not going to make any tax commitments that we are not absolutely sure we can keep. But our instinct is to reduce taxes on working families.

May also said that the Conservatives were, and always would be, the party of low tax. She claimed that Jeremy Corbyn wanted to raise the basic rate of tax to 25%, although Labour has committed not to do so at this election.

The Prime Minister also rejected claims that her support for an energy price cap- which is expected to be included as part of the upcoming Conservative manifesto- meant she was living in a ‘Marxist universe’.

The term ‘Marxist universe’ comes from David Cameron’s response to a similar proposal for a utilities price cap in 2015. The Prime Minister replied that:

No. First of all, we are Conservatives. We believe in free markets and competition, but we want to see competition working.

She also claimed that her proposal was different from Miliband’s, claiming Miliband was proposing a price freeze that would have stopped prices going down. This is false. When it was put to her that her plan was the same as Labour’s in 2015, she replied:

You are wrong. Ed Miliband didn’t suggest a cap on energy prices. Ed Miliband suggested a freeze on energy prices that would have frozen them so people paying above the odds would have continued to pay above the odds and, crucially, the prices could not have gone down. Under our cap, prices will be able to go down.

The Labour 2015 manifesto  actually said:

Labour will freeze energy bills until 2017, ensuring that bills can fall but not rise ..

Defence Secretary and former Energy Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has also made this mistake in radio interviews. 

Concerns had also been raised that May’s energy price cap would not result in bills going down, or even failing to rise. Some of  morning this morning's political interviews seemed to suggest that prices would still be allowed to rise under the cap. The Prime Minister refused to confirm that bills would definitely go down under her plan. Asked about this, she said:

What we are talking about is a cap on energy prices that will be set by an independent regulator and that will be a reflection of the market. Crucially it will be possible for that cap to move. But the independent regulator will set it.

But the key thing is that people are clearly paying too much for their energy bills today.

Energy companies have already started raising prices and withdrawing their cheapest tariffs since the prospect of post-election action against the 'big six' energy companies was raised by May. Centrica, the owner of British Gas, has already claimed that May's proposals would lead to less choice for consumers and less competition in the market. 

She also refused to say whether some cabinet ministers were still opposed to the idea of a cap on energy bills, as they had been in 2015.

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