Tory backbencher Christopher Chope has hit out at Boris Johnson’s tax hike to boost NHS and social care spending, branding it a “poll tax moment”.
Last night controversial plans to increase national insurance by 1.25 percentage points to fund a £12bn-a-year package for the health service and social care were approved by MPs by 319 votes to 248 – a majority of 71. The Labour party voted against motion.
Chope, the MP for Christchurch, was one of only five Tory MPs to vote against the prime minister’s plans, while 37 did not record a vote - although this does not automatically mean they all abstained.
This morning Chope told Times Radio that he saw the vote for the levy as a “community charge-stroke-poll tax moment”.
“Although the government initially won the votes on the community charge, in the end, the suggestion that the community charge was unfair because the Duke and dustman were treated equally, that just didn’t wash,” he said.
“And so I think we’re in a similar situation now that real Conservatives will be putting pressure on their MPs and saying that we need to go back to the drawing board on this.”
Other Tory MPs who voted against the plans were Philip Davies, Neil Hudson, Esther McVey and John Redwood, while prominent Conservatives including Steve Baker and Jake Berry said they could not support the motion.
On Wednesday evening Johnson addressed the 1922 committee of Tory MPs to drum up support for the national insurance increase, which has broken the party’s manifesto pledge not to raise taxes and will take the UK’s burden to its highest level in over 60 years.
Under the plans, £12billion will be pumped into the system every year for three years, initially to tackle the cases backlog in the NHS which has bloated under the coronavirus pandemic.
A proportion of the £36billion raised over three years - £5.4billion - will then be moved into social care system.
But there are fears the demands of the NHS could swallow this up before it has a chance to benefit the social care system.
Johnson said he was introducing the levy to tackle the “catastrophic” care costs that force many to sell their homes.
“What this plan for health and social care does is deal after decades with the catastrophic costs faced by millions of people, the risks that they face up and down the country that they could face the loss of their home, their possessions, their ability to pass on anything to their children,” he said on Wednesday.
“This is the government that is not only dealing with that problem but understands that in order to deal with the problems of the NHS backlogs you also have to fix social care.”
With the levy, a cap on how much people in England pay for their care has been set at £86,000 from October 2023, excluding the cost of accommodation and food.
Anyone with assets of less than £20,000 will have their care costs fully covered by the state, while those with assets between £20,000 and £100,000 will have their care costs subsidised.
Chope is not the only MP to liken the national insurance hike to Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax, which proved to be particularly unpopular in Scotland, where the policy was first introduced in 1989.
The SNP’s leader in Westminster, Ian Blackford, said on Wednesday that Johnson had imposed a “regressive Tory poll tax” on millions of Scottish workers.
“Isn’t the case that this Tory tax hike is once again balancing the books on the backs of the poor and the young?”
He was joined in his condemnation by Labour MP Jon Trickett, who said: “Putting aside the unfairness of the national insurance tax rise that the prime minister is proposing, is it not the case that the expenditure cap will be his poll tax?
“In his Uxbridge constituency, the average price of a house is £500,000; in parts of mine it is £130,000. That would leave people in his constituency with an inheritance of more than £410,000 per family, and in mine £44,000 per family.
“That is unjust and unfair. It is not about levelling up, is it, prime minister? It is about doubling down on everything that is wrong, and yet again the poorest will pay the most.”
Some of the Tory rebels representing northern constituencies warned that the policy will largely benefit wealthier home owners in the south.
During the debate, Berry, who represents Rossendale and Darwen in Lancashire, said national insurance was the wrong tax to use for the people in my constituency”.
“They are hit just as hard by this appalling social care issue as people anywhere else, but, for us, I would have much preferred it if the government had looked at income tax, which...would be much less regressive.”