Boris Johnson's £12bn tax increase to pay for health and social care clears Commons

September 14, 2021

Boris Johnson's £12bn tax increase to pay for health and social care has cleared the Commons.

MPs voted 307 to 251, a majority of 56, to approve the Health and Social Care Levy Bill.

Ten Conservatives rebelled to oppose the legislation: John Baron (Basildon and Billericay), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Philip Davies (Shipley), Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland), Richard Drax (South Dorset), Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North), Marcus Fysh (Yeovil), Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet), Esther McVey (Tatton), and John Redwood (Wokingham).

No vote was registered for another 44 Tories, although this does not equate to an abstention.

The prime minister saw his working majority of 83 cut in the vote, but not enough to derail the legislation, which will now be scrutinised by peers in the House of Lords at a later date.

The prime minister last week announced there would be a 1.25% increase in National Insurance contributions from April 2022 in a bid to address the funding crisis in the health and social care system.

The move breaks a manifesto pledge not to raise the rate of income tax, VAT or National Insurance and has provoked opposition among Tory backbenchers.

Labour is also opposed to the plans, with party leader Sir Keir Starmer telling Sky News last week that he "wouldn't look to working people" to fund health and social care.

Mr Johnson has said the extra cash will help tackle the backlog in the NHS caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as cover the cost of reforming the social care system in England.

Downing Street said the changes will end the "unpredictable and catastrophic" care costs faced by families.

From October 2023, anyone who has assets under £20,000 will have their care costs covered in full by the state.

Those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will be expected to contribute to their costs, but will also get some support from the state.

Under the plans, no one will have to pay more than £86,000 for care costs in their lifetime.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will get an extra £2.2bn in health and social care spending as part of the levy.

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Treasury minister Jesse Norman hailed the "landmark" legislation.

"This levy will enable the government to tackle the backlog in the NHS, it will provide a new permanent way to pay for the government's reforms to social care and it will allow the government to fund its vision for the future of health and social care in this country over the longer term," he said.

But shadow Treasury minister James Murray said the measure was a "tax on working people and their jobs", while SNP economy spokeswoman Alison Thewliss described the levy as "completely unjustifiable" and "unfair".

Tory MP John Baron expressed concerns over the "haste" with which the plans are being implemented, telling the Commons: "This will cost jobs, it will result in lower pay and it will result in higher prices."

Fellow Conservative Richard Drax also expressed doubts, saying: "Aping Labour by spending billions of pounds we can't afford won't fool the electorate for long. NHS has become a religion. No one dares take its name.

"But a radical review of health provision is critical if we are not to pour money into a black hole. We heard this expression repeatedly today, it is a bottomless pit. Without reform, this money, well intended by the government, will disappear."

Craig Mackinlay, another Tory rebel, said: "The government has to be applauded for finally thinking about these things, but I think haste is not due at this time.

"My sadness is we are just reaching for the tax lever. That's not what Conservatives do. We are going to end up with a tax take at the highest level of GDP for 70 years."

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