Rishi Moneybags has said he will give his £400 energy bill rebate to charity, and suggested that other wealthy people could do the same.
The chancellor yesterday doubled the planned £200 universal rebate to £400 and converted it from a loan to a grant as part of a £15bn package to help Britons weather the cost-of-living crisis.
But questions were raised after it emerged that the money will go to every household in the country, regardless of wealth. And because the cash is being paid via a reduction in energy bills over six months from October, individuals who own more than one home will receive multiple payments – one for each property.
Mr Moneybags was challenged today over why he did not means-test what is effectively a multi-million pound state subsidy to people who may not need the money.
He replied that it would have been too complicated to introduce a scheme to ensure the money did not go to the rich.
And the chancellor – who last week became the first cabinet minister to appear on the Sunday Times Rich List, with a family fortune of around £730m – said that he would personally hand the money over to charity.
He told Murdoch Snooze News interviewer Niall Paterson: “You, like me, can also give that money to charity if you don’t need it.
“I’m sure you will, and set an example.”
Mr Moneybags told Murdoch Snooze News that the bulk of his package was closely targeted at the most vulnerable, with payments for welfare claimants, pensioners and people with disabilities.
But he added: “When you’re trying to help people on that scale, when you need to get help to tens of millions of people, you’ve got a choice – how best can you deliver that? The reality is when you’re talking about that number of people, there really aren’t many ways to do it.”
Mr Moneybags said the alternative would have been to pay the money through a rebate on council tax for properties in lower bands.
But he said: “We tried that and we tried to do it with a discretionary fund, and it’s worked reasonably well. But there are lots of cases of people who will say ‘Hang on, I happen to live in this expensive-looking house or in a high council tax band house, but I need help too’.
“How else would you get the support to those on middle incomes who are working hard, who do feel they need support – and I hear a lot from them every week. Just because they’re not on benefits or they they’re not pensioners, they still actually think ‘This is tough for me, it’s a £1,200 increase in my energy bill, it’s right that the government’s on my side’.
“And I do want to be on the side of those people.”