Keir Starmer has said Labour will not back Boris Johnson’s controversial plans to raise National Insurance to fix the social care crisis.
The prime minister intends to announce a manifesto-shattering spike of 1.25 per cent this week, raising around £10 billion for social care and the NHS, with lifetime contributions on care to be capped at £80,000.
Johnson, Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak have been thrashing out the details, as the government prepares to announce its long-awaited reforms to social care.
Reports suggested that £5.5 billion more funding has been agreed for NHS shortfalls later this year, including to help clear the backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
But Downing Street sources said details of the social care plans were still being worked out on Sunday night and that a day for the announcement was yet to be confirmed.
‘Doesn’t seem fair’
Former minister Jake Berry, leader of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, warned against a policy which appeared aimed at elderly voters in affluent southern seats.
The Rossendale and Darwen MP said: “It doesn’t really seem to me reasonable that people who are going to work in my own constituency in east Lancashire, probably on lower wages than many other areas of the country, will pay tax to support people to keep hold of their houses in other parts of the country where house prices may be much higher.”
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that as National Insurance was not paid by people who are retired there was also a question of intergenerational fairness.
“It doesn’t seem fair to me – particularly following this pandemic where so many people have taken great sacrifices to keep people safe, it’s particularly hit the youngest, particularly hit those in work – that we then ask those in work to pay for people to have protection in care.”
Starmer’s opposition marks another blow to Johnson’s plans of getting his social care plans through the Commons.
Speaking to the Mirror as MPs prepared to return to Westminster, the Labour leader said: “We do need more investment in the NHS and social care but National Insurance, this way of doing it, simply hits low earners, it hits young people and it hits businesses.
“We don’t agree that is the appropriate way to do it. Do we accept that we need more investment? Yes we do. Do we accept that NI is the right way to do it? No we don’t.
“But we will look at what they put forward because after eleven years of neglect we do need a solution.”
Starmer added that it was “inevitable” that taxes would have to rise to solve the social care crisis, saying: “We need a fair way to raise the money that is needed.”
Tory former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood warned against a “stupid” tax rise.
“A tax on jobs when you want to promote more and better paid employment is particularly stupid,” he said.
Sir John added that “if an elderly person goes to live permanently in a care home it often makes sense for them to sell their former home”.
“Otherwise it would cost them money to pay the tax on it whilst unoccupied and in need of maintenance.”
And Conservative former prime minister Sir John Major warned against the move targeting workers and employers by arguing it is “regressive”.
Instead he called for Johnson to take the “straightforward and honest” approach of increasing general taxation.