A rise in National Insurance contributions in April “is going ahead”, a minister has told Sky News, amid reports Boris Johnson is considering delaying the increase.
Technology minister Chris Philp said funds are needed for the NHS and social care and the move is a “proportionate way” of finding the cash.
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.
The Guardian also reported that the Treasury is becoming increasingly alarmed that Mr Johnson might be preparing to scrap the tax hike to save his job.
‘The money is needed’
“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.”
Number 10 says ‘no plans’ to delay rise
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Johnson said the tax rise was “absolutely vital” as “every penny will go towards fixing the COVID backlogs and also social care”.
Asked to guarantee the increase would still come into effect in April, his official spokesman said there were “no plans to delay the levy”.
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”.