Boris Johnson refuses to rule out more tax hikes after National Insurance rise

7 September 2021, 17:03 | Updated: 7 September 2021, 17:46

Boris Johnson did not rule out further tax hikes
Boris Johnson did not rule out further tax hikes. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has refused to rule out further tax hikes – as he faces continued criticism for breaking his election pledge ruling out rises.

The 1.25% National Insurance increase breaks the Tories' manifesto commitment from 2019, the PM admitted on Tuesday – but he said Covid wasn't in that document either.

In a bid to defend the tax rise, key figures including Mr Johnson told a Downing Street briefing it is vital to stopping the number of people waiting for care and treatment skyrocketing to 13 million.

Defending the 1.25% rise on a day when the Conservatives twice broke their 2019 manifesto commitments, Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and health secretary Sajid Javid said it was necessary to act now.

Read more: PM announces 1.25% 'manifesto breaking' tax hike to fund social care reform

Borrowing the money, instead of taking it through tax, would just throw the burden to future generations, they claimed.

Given the opportunity to rule out further tax rises, Mr Johnson told journalists at a Downing Street briefing: "There are not many people in the Conservative Party who are more dedicated to cutting taxes, bearing down on taxes, where we can than the three people standing before you today.

Read more: National Insurance rise: How much more will you need to pay?

"But we face a reality which is that the fiscal position has changed radically from the one we found ourselves in in 2019.

However, he said the economy was growing strongly and he was impressed with jobs being created but the Government needed to be "pragmatic".

Questioned again, he said: "I certainly don't want any more tax rises in this parliament – if you want me to give that emotional commitment of course that's the case but there's a formality… these are decisions that the chancellor must make in the course of his budgets."

As he was accused of ending the Conservatives' reputation of being the party of low tax, Boris Johnson said: "I'll be absolutely frank with you. This new levy will break our manifesto commitment but a global pandemic wasn't in our manifesto either.

"Everyone knows in their bones that after everything we have spent to protect people through that crisis we cannot now shirk the challenge of putting the NHS back on its feet."

He added that the tax rise will relieve people of the fear of "financial ruin" from "catastrophic" care costs.

Mr Javid said around 5.5 million people were waiting for care amid the backlog caused by Covid and the Government fears that number could swell to 13 million people.

The proposed National Insurance rise is due to be voted on by MPs on Wednesday. The Government claims it can bring in around £12 billion a year.

Labour has been sharply critical of the plan, claiming the Tories cannot claim to be the party of low tax and that there rise had come without a plan.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the tax rise is "not a stealth tax, or borrowed, the levy will be there in black and white on people's payslips".

"For more than 70 years, it has been an article of faith in this country that our National Health Service should be free at the point of use, funded by general taxation.

"If we are serious about defending this principle in a post-Covid world, we have to be honest with ourselves about the cost that brings, and be prepared to take the difficult and responsible decisions to meet them."