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Tory MP backs National Insurance increase he says is ‘morally wrong’


Boris Johnson has won the backing of MPs’ for his controversial £12 billion tax hike to pay for health and social care, even though a small number of Conservative MPs refused to back the plan.

The House voted by 319 to 248 in favour of the 1.25 percentage point increase in National Insurance contributions.

MPs who voted for the measure included Mike Wood, Conservative MP for Dudley South. Speaking in the Commons debate just before the vote, he said he would back the National Insurance rise even though the Conservative manifesto in the 2019 general election ruled out any such increase.

Read more: Boris Johnson challenged over National Insurance increase

Mr Wood said: “As a Conservative, I believe that raising taxes is certainly a bad option. It clearly breaches a manifesto pledge, and it is both economically and morally wrong.

“It is economically wrong because higher taxes will dampen growth and prosperity in the longer term, and it is morally wrong because it means taking money away from those who have worked hard, to be spent elsewhere. That needs to be kept to a minimum.”

But he added: “However, if raising taxation is a bad option, surely the alternative – not acting – is far, far worse. Not acting would mean allowing the backlogs that have built up in the NHS through the pandemic to continue. That would put people’s early diagnoses at risk and delay treatments further, clearly endangering lives. It would mean not reforming social care, despite there being almost universal agreement that that reform is long overdue.

” Government after Government have promised to take this on, to reform social care and to put it on a sustainable footing financially. There have been endless reviews, but each time they have ended up in the ‘too difficult’ box.”

Mr Wood said: “The fairest way is to have a levy on national insurance contributions, sharing the cost between employees, employers, the self-employed and those who get income from dividends, so that those who earn more pay more.”

The vote meant the Government’s working majority of more than 80 was reduced to 71, with a number of Conservatives apparently choosing to abstain. Others made clear they were only voting with the greatest reluctance.

Five Conservative MPs voted against the proposal. They were Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Philip Davies (Shipley), Neil Hudson (Penrith and the Border), Esther McVey (Tatton) and John Redwood (Wokingham).

It reflected concern within the Tory ranks that Mr Johnson was taking the tax burden to record peacetime levels.

There was dismay also that a scheme to place a lifetime cap of £86,000 on social care costs in England would primarily benefit elderly households in the more affluent parts of the South at the expense of working families elsewhere.

West Midlands MPs who spoke in the debate also included Steve McCabe, the Labour MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, who condemned the proposals. He said: “This is a measure built on deception. There was a promise of no tax rise or National Insurance rises, yet this is a tax rise to hit young workers; to hit people who will never get the opportunity to buy a house; to hit the self-employed struggling to get back on their feet.”

He said: “Age UK estimates that there are about 1.5 million people in need of help with daily living who do not get it. This tax rise will not address those issues. It will not help people needing help with washing, dressing, eating and taking their medicines. This is a broken tax promise: a penalty for those who took a chance on voting Tory at the last election. On social care, it is a fiction and a deception from people whose promises will never again be given any credence.”

Earlier at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson attempted to quell the backlash, suggesting the insurance industry could protect people from having to sell their homes to pay for the cost of care, amid claims the £86,000 cap would not be enough.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that someone with assets of £186,000 – including their home – could still be forced to find £86,000 under the Government’s proposals.

“Where does the Prime Minister think that they are going to get that £86,000 without selling their home?” he said.

Mr Johnson replied: “This is the first time that the state has actually come in to deal with the threat of these catastrophic costs, thereby enabling the private sector, the financial services industry, to supply the insurance products that people need to guarantee themselves against the costs of care.”

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