British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended the decision to raise national insurance (NI) contributions for millions of workers, arguing that the manifesto-breaking rise is “necessary, fair, and responsible.”
The government has raised national insurance contributions by 1.25 percentage points from April 6, breaking a pledge Johnson personally made in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto in 2019, in which he promised not to raise income tax, VAT, or national insurance.
From April 2023 onwards, the NI rate will decrease back to the 2021–2022 level, with a new 1.25 percent health and social care levy legally introduced.
The UK government predicts that the tax rise will raise £39 billion ($51 billion) over the next three years to help reduce the pandemic-induced backlog in the National Health Service (NHS) and reform adult social care for the long term.
Johnson said on Tuesday that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic led to “the longest waiting lists we’ve ever seen,” making it necessary to launch “the biggest catch-up programme” in the history of the NHS.
“The levy is the necessary, fair, and responsible next step, providing our health and care system with the long-term funding it needs as we recover from the pandemic.”
Speaking at a hospital in Welwyn Garden City on Wednesday, the prime minister said, “What we are doing today is unquestionably the right thing for our country, it’s the right thing for the NHS, because we’ve got here in the UK backlogs, waiting lists of six million people.”
“We’ve got to give our doctors and our nurses the wherewithal, the funding, to deal with that,” he said.
Johnson said the government would help families “in any way that we can,” including the £22 billion ($29 billion) package of measures announced to support households “through what are unquestionably tough times caused by the end of the pandemic, the global inflation problem, the energy price spike.”
Health Secretary Sajid Javid also justified the tax increase, arguing that funding health and social care through borrowing would not just be “economically wrong” but also “morally wrong,” as it would be “mortgaging the future of our children and our grandchildren.”
The main opposition Labour Party criticised the tax rise, saying it is “not the time to be putting up taxes.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC that this is a tax that “hits businesses and working people,” while “the single biggest problem the moment is growing the economy.”
PA Media contributed to this report.