BORIS Johnson insisted he will not hike taxes again “if I can possibly avoid it” as he grapples with shortages across the economy and a looming cost of living crisis.

The Prime Minister said he is ready to take “big, bold decisions” to rebuild the UK after Covid-19 ahead of the Tory Party conference opening in Manchester yesterday.

He highlighted the UK economy “bouncing back” more strongly than rivals in the G7 group of leading democracies. But he acknowledged the “chronic” lorry driver shortage and other problems were contributing to a supply chain crisis which could last until Christmas.

Rising energy bills, a £20-a-week cut in Universal Credit (UC) set to come in on the day of Johnson’s conference speech on Wednesday and the hike in national insurance from next April will also add to the pressures currently facing the Prime Minister.

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Johnson told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show the decision to end the temporary uplift in Universal Credit and hike taxes to fund the NHS and social care were necessary as part of the package to rebuild after the pandemic. “If I can possibly avoid it, I do not want to raise taxes again, of course not, nor does [Chancellor] Rishi Sunak,” he said.

Despite the ballooning tax burden and increased state interventions as a result of Covid, Johnson compared his approach to Margaret Thatcher – hero of the Tory right. “Margaret Thatcher would not have borrowed more money now, I’ll tell you that much for free.”

Johnson said there was “no fiercer and more zealous opponent of unnecessary tax rises than me, but we have had to deal with a pandemic on a scale which this country has not seen before in our lifetimes and long before”.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg fired a fresh warning the PM not to hike taxes any further, telling Johnson taxation has hit “the limit”.

Rees-Mogg insisted the Conservatives should maintain the title of the party of low taxation despite conceding Johnson has increased it to the highest rate since the Second World War. But he warned the party must ensure the state spends taxpayers’ money effectively and that the tax burden is “reasonable”.

“We are at the upper reaches of the reasonableness of the tax burden,” he said at the event hosted by the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group.

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“Even when tax rates have been considerably higher, the tax take has not been much higher,” Rees-Mogg said. “Why on earth would you think higher rates in the 2020s would have a greater effect than they did in the 1960s and the 1970s. I think we are about at the limit of what taxation can raise.”

Rees-Mogg also called for works at Parliament to be scaled back, saying he has received an estimate that the renovations could hit £20 billion. “I love the Palace of Westminster as much as anybody but it is not worth £10-20bn in public expenditure,” he said.

The minister said the “basic works” of wiring and sewage does need doing but he argued that covered courtyards and an underground delivery system are unnecessary.