Johnson and Sunak confirm National Insurance hike but insist they are 'tax-cutting Tories'

29 January 2022, 22:15 | Updated: 29 January 2022, 23:38

Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have confirmed the planned National Insurance hike will go ahead in April
Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have confirmed the planned National Insurance hike will go ahead in April. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The Prime Minister and Chancellor have confirmed a controversial planned tax hike to boost health funding, after it was reported that Boris Johnson was "wobbling" on the policy - but insist they are "tax-cutting Conservatives".

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The PM was under pressure from some Conservative MPs to scrap or at least delay the national insurance increase to win back support, as he awaits the findings of Whitehall and police inquiries into claims of lockdown-busting parties held in Downing Street.

But Mr Johnson, together with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has now made a firm commitment to go ahead with the 1.25 percentage point increase, designed to tackle the Covid-induced NHS backlog and reform social care.

Writing in The Sunday Times, the pair insisted that it is right to follow through on the "progressive" policy.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: Soaring energy bills to 'rise to £1,900 from April'

Read more: First Tory MP confirms he would run to replace Boris if PM quits over partygate scandal

"We must clear the Covid backlogs, with our plan for health and social care - and now is the time to stick to that plan," they said.

"We must go ahead with the health and care levy.

"It is the right plan."

Tory MP hits out at tax rises amid cost of living crisis

They claimed it was progressive because "the burden falls most on those who can most afford it".

"Every single penny of that £39 billion will go on these crucial objectives - including nine million more checks, scans and operations, and 50,000 more nurses, as well as boosting social care," they added.

Read more: Tory MP: Sue Gray's partygate report '100%' should be published in full, despite Met pleas

Read more: PM treated 'differently' by Met over partygate inquiry, says barrister Jolyon Maugham

Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak said they are both "tax-cutting Conservatives", but there is "no magic money tree".

"We believe passionately that people are the best judges of how to spend their own money," they said.

"We want to get through this Covid-driven phase, and get on with our agenda, of taking advantage of our new post-Brexit freedoms to turn the UK into the enterprise centre of Europe and the world.

"We want lighter, better, simpler regulation, especially in those new technologies in which the UK excels. We are also Thatcherites, in the sense that we believe in sound money.

"There is no magic money tree."

Care home boss concerns about the rise in cost of living in the UK

In April, national insurance is due to rise by 1.25 percentage points for workers and employers.

From 2023, it is due to drop back to its current rate, with a 1.25 per cent health and social care levy then applied to raise funds for improvements to care services.

Read more: Two people including boy, 9, killed and thousands without power as Storm Malik batters UK

Read more: PM had nothing to do with Afghan dog evacuation, Pen Farthing declares

Political opposition to the change has come from all sides of the Commons, as MPs fear the impact that cost of living pressures could have on stretched household budgets.

Inflation is at a 30-year high after the coronavirus pandemic and the energy price cap is due to lift in the spring, possibly increasing bills by 50 per cent.