Johnson wins Commons backing for health and social care levy

UK social care updates

Boris Johnson has won a comfortable 61-vote House of Commons majority for his manifesto-breaking plan to raise taxes to fund health and social care, but sceptical Tory MPs demanded proof the policy would yield results.

Many Conservatives remain doubtful that the decision to raise £12bn a year in extra taxes will result in big reductions in hospital waiting lists and better social care, rather than disappear into an NHS “black hole”.

Andrew Mitchell, former cabinet minister, said a representative from the Treasury should come to the House of Commons every six months to explain what had been accomplished with the new “health and social care levy”.

“In other words, what additional treatment has been achieved — so that we can see, and show our constituents why it was right to raise this levy and what they are getting for the money.”

With many Tory MPs hostile towards the proposed tax rise, Johnson pushed through the Health and Social Care Levy bill at breakneck speed before opposition coalesced.

The bill was given a second reading, its crucial stage in the Commons, on Tuesday by 317 to 256 votes. Six Tories voted against the government: John Baron, Christopher Chope, Philip Davies, Dehenna Davison, Ben Everitt and Esther McVey.

A number of Conservative MPs abstained, but the 61-vote margin of victory was similar to the 71-vote majority secured by Johnson when members voted on the principle of the measure last week.

Steve Barclay, Treasury minister, said the government’s plan would make “an extraordinary difference to the lives of millions of people across the country”, with £36bn going to the NHS and social care over three years.

National insurance contributions for employers and employees will rise by 1.25 percentage points in April 2022, as will the taxation of dividends. The rise in NICs is in breach of the Conservative 2019 manifesto.

The majority of the extra money will initially go to the health service to help reduce a waiting list backlog of more than 5m people, with health secretary Sajid Javid warning it could rise to 13m without urgent action.

Tory MPs fear the NHS will take up most of the money, leaving little to improve social care. The plan includes an £86,000 cap on the amount any individual can spend on their adult social care costs.

Treasury ministers hope taxpayers will demand reforms and improvements in the NHS once their payslip includes a specific “health and social care levy” element.

Barclay said that on Monday he had met NHS leaders in Downing Street to discuss the plan for delivering more treatments, acknowledging that it was “an issue of concern throughout the House”.

Richard Drax, a Conservative backbencher, asked whether the Treasury had sanctioned the appointment of “43 new executives on £270,000 a year” in the NHS.

Andrea Leadsom, another former cabinet minister, said her constituents were worried that “any pay rises in the NHS will be taken up by managers over frontline operators”.

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