Downing Street has denied Boris Johnson is going “wobbly” over the planned national insurance increase in April.
The prime minister’s official spokesman rejected reports that Mr Johnson is considering scrapping the tax hike in response to pressure from Conservative backbenchers.
“The Prime Minister and Chancellor are fully committed to introducing the health and social care levy in April,” the spokesman said.
‘No ifs, no buts’
“We’ve spoken before about why we are doing that, in order to give the NHS the funds it needs to tackle the backlog that has built up, as well as tackling the long-term issue of social care. So as I say, we are committed to introducing that in April.”
Asked if this meant the increase would come into effect “no ifs, no buts”, the spokesman said: “Yeah.”
Earlier Technology minister Chris Philp told Sky News the funds are needed for the NHS and social care and the move is a “proportionate way” of finding the cash.
“Yes, it is going ahead,” Mr Philp said when asked if the rise in April is “set in stone”.
“It was approved by the whole cabinet, it was passed by parliament with a significant majority, and the money is needed to fund the NHS, which I think is something that is a national priority.
“It is £36bn over three years to fund the NHS and social care.
“We need to put that money in to make sure the NHS has the resources it needs to recover after the pandemic, and this is a proportionate way of finding that money.”
‘The increase should be jettisoned’
His comments come after it was reported by The Times that the prime minister is considering delaying the looming 1.25 percentage point rise for a year as “red meat” for his critics as he faces pressure over the partygate scandal.
Critics of the policy have also argued it will further hit the public at a time when the cost of living is continuing to go up.
But speaking to Sky News, a senior Conservative MP called for the government to delay the hike.
Mel Stride, who chairs the Commons Treasury Select Committee, told Sky News that “for a period of one year, the increase should be jettisoned” as the economy is managing better than the Office for Budget Responsibility had predicted it would.
Mr Stride warned Treasury ministers to be mindful that “cost of living pressures are very prevalent” and said shelving plans would be “one way of helping to address some of that”.