‘It’s a loan’ Audience erupts with laughter as minister struggles to explain Sunak’s levy

Question Time audience member clashes with Hartley-Brewer

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Greg Hands, minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change denied that the levy was a loan despite shouts of the contrary from the rowdy audience. Host Fiona Bruce asked: “So if we don’t want to pay it back, we don’t have to?”

“No” replied Mr Hands as the audience erupted in hysterics.

Mr Hands started by explaining the measures including the levy the Chancellor Rishi Sunak had introduced for those struggling with energy bills.

He said: “Can I just come back to the point about bills though, that’s the other really important part of what we are dealing with tonight.

“The Chancellor of the Exchequer launched a really important package in February just two months ago to deal with the rise in bills.

“Not deal with it completely, actually 9 billion pounds set aside, a £200 discount on energy bills, a £150 discount on council tax, additional funds to make sure the most vulnerable are able, give them assistance in paying their energy bills.”

Fiona Bruce said: “The £200 is of course a loan.”

However, Mr Hands denied this was the case.

He said: “It’s not a loan, it is a discount which will then be taken back in the form of a levy.

Ms Bruce interjected: “But you have to pay it back.”

In a confused clash, the minister responded: “No, not necessarily the individual. It gets taken back at the point at which it is levied.”

The comment was met with shouts and grunts from the audience who were then asked by Ms Bruce to repeat what they had said.

“It’s a loan” the audience shouted in unison.

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Mr Hands continued to deny this was the case.

He said: “It’s taken back through a levy, it’s not a loan because it doesn’t create an obligation on the individual to repay. It is actually a levy on the price point.”

Fiona Bruce seemed nonplussed by this and asked Mr Hands how it was different from a loan.

She said: “They still have to pay it back, what’s the difference?”

Mr Hands continued to deny it was a loan.

He said: “It’s put on the price point not on the individual, the individual does not have an obligation to repay.”

Exasperated, Ms Bruce asked “So if we don’t want to pay it back we don’t have to?”

Mr Hands’ denial led to an eruption from the audience.

He said: “No, I’m not saying that. It’s taken back at the point at which it’s charged.”

Ms Thornberry cut in: “So if you don’t have any heating afterwards, then you don’t pay it back? Is that it? That is it isn’t it. That’s what you’re saying.

Mr Hands said: “It’s not an obligation but importantly it comes this October and these are the important things we have announced to help people with bills.

“But that’s different to the long term strategy we’ve launched today with renewables, nuclear and making sure we’re not increasing our imports on oil and gas.”

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