Controversial Tory plans to hike taxes to pay for a massive boost to social care and NHS spending have been comfortably approved by MPs.
The Commons voted for the government’s plan by 319 votes to 248 – a majority of 71. It came despite some Conservative backbench unease at the taxes needed to raise £12 billion.
The count meant the government’s working majority of more than 80 was reduced by nine – with a number of Conservatives apparently choosing to abstain while others made clear they were only voting with the greatest reluctance.
According to the division list, five Tory MPs rebelled to oppose the plan: Sir Christopher Chope, Philip Davies, Neil Hudson, Esther McVey and Sir John Redwood.
The division list also showed 37 Conservative MPs did not record a vote.
This does not automatically mean they all abstained – as some could have been given permission by the whips to miss the vote.
Former ministers Jake Berry and Steve Baker were among those to declare during the debate they could not support the motion – therefore abstaining in the vote.
Boris Johnson spent almost an hour addressing a private meeting of Tory MPs at Westminster ahead of the vote.
The prime minister told the backbench 1922 Committee that the Conservatives remained the party of free enterprise, the private sector and “low taxation”.
“We should never forget that,” he said.
At the same time, he said that he could not think of a “better use” for public money than spending on the NHS.
The Tory ranks are concerned that Johnson is not only abandoning a manifesto promise not to raise the main rates of taxes, but that he was taking the tax burden to record peacetime levels.
There is 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.
Before the 1922 session, Tory backbencher Alec Shelbrooke told HuffPost UK: “I don’t want to bring in tax rises but at the same time, this problem has got to be tackled and it’s only going to be tackled by paying for it. We are in a situation where we need 10 million a year now.
“It’s a balanced tax...spread across the ages. One of the things that has been overlooked in all of this is that up until now – and I’ve had experiences in my own family – I’ve had an experience in my family where the assets were sold and the money ran out, and they were still alive.
“It’s not just about keeping inheritance – what happens when the inheritance runs out and you’re still alive?”
Following the meeting, Shelbrooke said it was a “very positive speech from the prime minister”.