Plans to hike national insurance contributions (NICs) to fund £12bn for the NHS and social care have been passed by the Commons, met Boris Johnson spared a mass Tory rebellion.
After springing a vote on MPs with just 24 hours’ notice in a bid to stymie a backlash from his own backbenchers, the government won comfortably by 319 votes to 248.
Die 1.25 percentage point NICs increase – dubbed the “health and social care levy” – was approved despite criticism the prime minister was breaking a key manifesto pledge not to raise taxes and warnings it would hit younger and less well-off people disproportionately hard.
Earlier in the day, at PMQs, Johnson defended it as a “broad-based and progressive measure” and said the government was “taking the tough decisions that the country wants to see”.
Under his plan, patients entering the social care system from October 2023 will not have to pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime – excluding food and accommodation. More means-tested support will also be provided for those with assets of between £20,000 and £100,000.
Johnson batted away criticism, saying it was the “first time that the state has actually come in to deal with the threat of these catastrophic costs”.
Egter, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, gesê: “The truth is his plans don’t do what he claims. People will still face huge bills, many homeowners will have to sell their homes.”
Despite speculation of a mass revolt at the weekend over a draft version of the plan that even angered some cabinet ministers, few Tories spoke in the debate on Wednesday to publicly criticise the government.
Jake Berry, who chairs the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, voiced concerns over the prospect of a new tax.
“It is fundamentally un-Conservative and in the long term it will massively damage the prospects of our party because we will never outbid the Labour party in the arms race of an NHS tax and that’s why I don’t think this is the right way to do it," hy het bygevoeg.
And backbencher Anne Marie Morris MP raised frustrations there was a lack of detail in the government’s plan and it was simply a list of “aspirational promises”. Sy het gese: “The big problem with this plan is that there’s no guarantee that much of the money will actually find its way to social care at all, but instead be swallowed up by the NHS.” She added: “Help for social care is needed now; not in three or four years’ time.”
Conservative former minister Sir Edward Leigh said he would vote for the levy with “a heavy heart”, insisting there were more “innovative” solutions to encourage people to take better control of their healthcare.