Johnson and Starmer clash over controversial tax hike in rowdy first PMQs of the season

8 September 2021, 13:16

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer have come to blows over the proposed national insurance increase in the first Prime Minister's Questions since parliament returned from its summer recess.

Sir Keir grilled the Prime Minister on his plans, which will see a 1.25 per cent increase in national insurance to cover the long-awaited reforms to the social care system.

The money will also be needed to clear the backlog of non-urgent NHS care.

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The Labour Leader began by asking the Prime Minister about the "promise" he made that no one in need of social care would need to sell their home to pay for it.

He asked: "Does that guarantee still stand?"

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over the Prime Minister's plans for social care reform
Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clashed over the Prime Minister's plans for social care reform. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv

In response, Mr Johnson said his plan would deal with the "catastrophic costs" of social care.

"This is the Government that is not only dealing with that problem but understands that in order to deal with the problems of the NHS backlogs you also have to fix social care," he said.

He added that he wanted to know whether Labour were going to vote in favour of the plans, something that Sir Keir has already indicates they would not.

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Both My Johnson and Sir Keir were frequently drowned out by cheers and shouts from MPs, and at several points throughout the debate the Speaker had to step in.

"If you don't want to hear the Prime Minister, I certainly do and I can't hear him," he said.

"It's not acceptable."

Sir Keir then pressed Mr Johnson for an answer to his first question, saying: "I notice the Prime Minister didn't stand by his guarantee that no-one will need to sell their house to pay for care."

He went on to say that people would be expected to pay up to £86,000 to pay for care, and asked: "Where does the Prime Minister think that they are going to get that £86,000 without selling their home?"

In response, Mr Johnson said it was "the first time" the state had stepped in to deal with the "catastrophic costs".

"What we are actually doing is lifting the floor, lifting the guarantee by up to £100,000, meaning nobody has to pay anything across the entire country, but what we still have to hear from the opposition is what they would do to fix the backlogs in the NHS and fix social care after decades of inertia and inactivity."

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Sir Keir then asked if the Prime Minister could say whether the NHS backlog would be cleared by the end of this parliament, something he pointed out Mr Johnson was unable to say yes or no to.

"There we have it," said the Labour leader.

"Working people will pay higher tax, those in need will still lose their homes to pay for care and he can't even say if the NHS backlog will be cleared... they're breaking their manifesto promises and putting up taxes on their working constituents, for this?"

He also warned working families would be faced with a "double whammy" of a national insurance rise and a universal credit cut.

Mr Johnson said he was "proud" of the Government's record throughout the pandemic, adding: "We believe in higher wages and better skills - and it is working."

Sir Keir countered: "Higher wages and higher skills, he says - how out of touch he is."

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The Labour leader then accused the Government of underfunding the NHS then asking working people to "cough up" more tax.

He added: "Isn't this the same old Tory party, always putting their rich mates and donors before working people."

In response, the Prime Minister said: "I think, very sadly, Mr Speaker, what you're hearing is the same old nonsense from Labour."