National Insurance hike will go ahead as planned minister tells LBC despite Tory revolt

28 January 2022, 01:24 | Updated: 28 January 2022, 08:37

Boris Johnson is said to be "wobbling" over National Insurance plans
Boris Johnson is said to be "wobbling" over National Insurance plans. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has refused to confirm that the National Insurance hike planned for April will still go ahead as he tries to win over Tories.

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Mr Johnson acknowledged on Thursday that the 1.25 percentage point rise was "absolutely vital" in addressing NHS backlogs and fixing social care, but did not comment on whether it would go ahead in two months time.

It comes as the PM faces mounting pressure from Tories amid the ongoing partygate scandal that has taken over Westminster in recent months.

Reports have suggested either a delay to the rise or abandoning it completely is the condition that several MPs have, if he wants to continue with their support.

A Government source told the Times: "He's wobbling, I think he would do anything to survive."

But speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, culture minister Chris Philp said: "No, the plan it to proceed as intended, it was approved by the Cabinet, it was approved by Parliament.

"This National Insurance change, increase, puts £36 billion over three years into the NHS and social care.

"Successive governments of both colours have failed to sort out social care over many, this does that.

"We all I think acknowledge the NHS needs extra money to recover from the pandemic, this delivers that funding increase so it is the right thing to do."

The paper said MPs who are considering putting in letters of no confidence in the PM have repeatedly told him that the rise must not go forward at a time when people are struggling to cope with the cost of living.

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The potential u-turn has left the Treasury concerned, according to The Guardian.

The paper said Chancellor Rishi Sunak had privately stressed to MPs that the tax rise had to go ahead as planned, with one frontbencher speculating that his position could become untenable if the decision is overruled.

However, there have been no official discussions about a delay, it has been reported.

One Government source defended the rise, telling the Times: "It's not a credible or responsible argument to say you can just borrow because of inflation and where interest rates have gone and are going to go."

Mr Sunak is said to believe that it would be "fiscally irresponsible" to change course because it would mean more borrowing as a result.

But right-wingers, including Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lord Frost, have been vocal in their opposition to the move, with the latter stating that the rises were "never necessary or justified".

The rush to win Tories over comes as both MPs and the public await the outcome of senior civil servant Sue Gray's probe into the partygate scandal.

Despite reports that it would be released before the end of the week, it is now believed the findings of the investigation will be shared early next week.

The Met also dropped the bombshell earlier in the week that they too would be investigating the claims of gatherings, despite previously refusing to over a lack of evidence.

It could spell the end of Mr Johnson's premiership, with the leader working on borrowed time to prove himself to be "the right man to lead" the country.