UK's Liz Truss still favours tax cuts over direct support on energy bills

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Britain's Conservative Party leadership candidate Liz Truss visits the Onside Future Youth Zone, in London

LONDON (Reuters) -Liz Truss, frontrunner in the race to replace Boris Johnson as British prime minister, said on Tuesday she still favoured tax cuts to grow the economy instead of providing direct support to households facing unprecedented rises in energy bills.

Charities, business groups and politicians have called on Truss and her rival, former finance minister Rishi Sunak, to set out how they would help Britons cope with a forecast 82% rise in energy prices in October.

Sunak, who as finance minister in May set out a 15 billion pound ($18.14 billion) support package to help households struggling with surging energy bills, has pledged more direct support. Truss has said she favours tax cuts over handouts.

Asked repeatedly why she was ruling out providing direct support to households, Truss told reporters: "What I don't believe in is taxing people to the highest level in 70 years, and then giving them their own money back."

Truss has promised an emergency budget if she wins.

"I'm not going to write the budget in advance. We'll see what the situation is like in the autumn, but I'm committed to making sure people are supported," she said.

A spokesperson for Sunak's campaign said Truss was "divorced from reality".

"Liz's plan will not touch the sides (remotely suffice) for the majority of British families this winter and pensioners will get no help whatsoever," the spokesperson said.

($1 = 0.8268 pounds)

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; writing by Kate Holton; editing by William James and Mark Heinrich)