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Watch: Sajid Javid insists new taxes needed despite £350m Brexit boost
On Tuesday Boris Johnson broke two manifesto pledges in a single day, with an increase in National Insurance contributions and a temporary suspension of the “triple lock” on pensions.
The prime minister insisted they were necessary to deal with the backlog in the NHS built up during COVID and to deliver long-overdue reform of the social care system in England.
Speaking this morning, the health secretary was forced to defend the measure when it was put to him that Johnson said during the Brexit referendum that there would be an extra £350m a week for the NHS if the UK left the EU.
When asked where the money – estimated to be tens of billions of pounds – had gone, Javid said that the pandemic meant more money was needed.
He told LBC: “Despite all the extra money that’s gone into the NHS… because of the impact of the pandemic it hasn’t been enough to meet the challenges.”
Presenter Nick Ferrari asked whether the £350m a week claim was “another lie from Boris Johnson just as the lie in his election manifesto.
Continuing to blame the pandemic, Javid responded: “As we’ve left the EU it happened at the same time as the global pandemic and that money and much more has gone into the health and care service.
“We have seen in the first year of the pandemic that the government has put in an extra £40 billion this year alone we’ve put in £20 billion more into health and social care.”
He added: “The money has gone in. So much of it has gone into dealing with the pandemic – those vaccines, the extra PPE, the testing and tracing service – that’s where it has gone.
“So we’re not hiding any of this money – but we need to plan for the long term.”
David Henig, the UK director of the Ecipe think tank, also highlights the Brexit claims, tweeting: “Why aren’t we funding social care from the money we sent to the EU rather than a rise in national insurance? There was a bus.”
The government’s plan will see the introduction of a new health and social care levy, based on a 1.25 percentage-point increase in National Insurance contributions – breaking a Tory commitment not to raise NI.
Under the new levy a typical basic-rate taxpayer earning £24,100 would pay £180 more a year, while a higher-rate taxpayer on £67,100 would pay £715.
As well as providing extra funding for the NHS to deal with the backlog built up during the pandemic, the new package of £36 billion over three years will also reform the way adult social care in England is funded.
Javid said the decision to abandon the election pledge in order to provide £12 billion extra a year for the NHS and adult social care was the sign of a “responsible and serious government”.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Javid said he appreciates the tax hike “does not sit easily with everyone”, but “no responsible government, especially a Conservative one, can bury its head in the sand and pass these problems on to the next one”.
But there has been criticism of the manifesto promise being broken – including from Johnson’s former adviser Dominic Cummings, who tweeted: “Every Tory MP stood on a manifesto promise NOT to put up income tax/NI.
“The PM personally guaranteed it. If you vote to break your promise you will hear ‘youre a LIAR…ALL THE SAME’ for years.”
Ahead of a vote on the plans on Wednesday, Johnson is expected to address the influential 1922 Committee of Tory MPs in a final effort to sell the package.
Reports suggested some Cabinet members had privately challenged Johnson when he unveiled his plan to them on Tuesday, but none have resigned over the principle and there was limited criticism among the Tory rank and file after the package was set out.
Conservative backbencher Richard Drax said “as Conservatives, broken pledges and tax rises should concern us” and called for a “radical review” of the NHS to ensure the money did not disappear into a black hole.
Another backbencher, Stephen McPartland, indicated that he could not support the government’s plan for social care without more detail.
Despite the backlash, support for for the tax rise stands at 44% among all voters, according to a YouGov poll – while 43% said they opposed it.
Despite the near-even split, young people are more opposed to the plans – with 47% of 18-24 year olds arguing against it, compared to to 26% who are in favour.
Opposition reverses in the older age bracket, with 68% of people aged 65 and over in support of the tax rise, compared to 23% in the same age bracket who were against it.
Watch: Johnson breaks manifesto promise with £12bn tax hike for health service