Hammond suggests Brexiteers briefing against him
16 July 2017 National News
Philip Hammond has appeared to accuse Cabinet colleagues of briefing against him due to their unhappiness with his Brexit position.
The Chancellor, who has this week faced a series of claims over his supposed comments at Cabinet meetings, told fellow ministers to get on with their Government jobs.
Appearing to allege he is being targeted, Remain-supporter Mr Hammond claimed “some of the noise” around the Tory party has been “generated by people who are not happy” with his insistence Brexit must be focused on “protecting our economy”.
The Chancellor suggested the leaked comments from this week’s Cabinet meeting were the result of the “silly summer season” and told his fellow ministers it would “helpful” if they “concentrated on the job in hand”.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis, both Leave supporters, are at the centre of reports that senior Tories are positioning themselves to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister.
Mr Hammond said he would “certainly hope” there is no ongoing leadership contest at the top of Government, adding: “If there is I’m no part of it.”
But the Chancellor repeatedly refused to deny one report he branded public sector workers “overpaid”, describing it as a “simple fact” that public sector workers are paid 10% more than private sector workers.
He has come under pressure to ditch the 1% cap on annual public sector pay rises following the General Election result, amid internal Government feuding on the issue.
At a Cabinet meeting this week, the .
Asked whether he made such a comment, Mr Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr: “I’m not going to say what was or wasn’t said at a Cabinet meeting and it’s easy to quote a phrase out of context.”
The Chancellor described how public sector pay “raced ahead” of private sector wages following the 2008/09 financial crash, with both sets of workers now paid “about the same level”.
“But when you take into account the very generous contributions public sector employers have to pay in for their workers’ pensions, their very generous pensions, they are still about 10% ahead,” he added.
Despite the “premium” public sector workers enjoy compared to private sector employees, Mr Hammond insisted he was sympathetic to “all the issues that public sector workers are facing”.
He said: “You can’t eat your pension, you can’t feed your kids with your pension contribution.”
Mr Hammond denied another report he had told his Cabinet colleagues driving trains is now so easy that “even a woman can do it”.
He said: “No I didn’t and I wouldn’t say anything like that. I don’t think like that, I wouldn’t make a remark like that.”
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith claimed it is “quite wrong” for senior ministers to be leaking the contents of Cabinet discussions.
He told Sky News: “The old story about a leak is… plug it. And the best way to plug it is to shut up and not go talking outside.
“Cabinet was meant to be private process and it’s quite wrong if Cabinet ministers are leaking stuff out. I know most of my colleagues and backbenchers do not want this to continue.
“There will be no leadership contest – they do not want one. We have a job to do, Theresa May has a job to do, you must remember Theresa May won the last election.”