BORIS Johnson has been criticised from all sides over his plans to increase national insurance to pay for social care and NHS support.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s Westminster leader, said the measures announced yesterday were “fleecing Scottish families” and was a return to “Tory austerity”.
During Prime Minister’s questions, Mr Blackford said Mr Johnson should be “ashamed” and added: “The facts are this is a tax hike on the poor and on the young.
“This is the return of the Tories’ austerity agenda. It is austerity 2.0.”
Mr Blackford said in-work poverty had “risen to record levels” under the Conservatives, and added: “Scotland deserves better. There is clearly no chance of a fair recovery under this Prime Minister and under this Westminster government.”
He added: “Scottish families now face a triple whammy of regressive Tory tax hikes, £1040 Universal Credit cuts, and the premature termination of furlough, which will make poverty and inequality even worse.
“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that around 2 million families on low incomes will now pay, on average, an extra £100 per year because of the Prime Minister’s tax hike.
“A former Tory Work and Pensions Secretary has called it a’sham’, a former Tory Chancellor has said this is the ‘poor subsidising the rich’, and a former Tory Prime Minister has called it ‘regressive’.”
However the Prime Minister hit back, referencing comments made by John Swinney previously when Labour introduced a rise to National Insurance in 2003.
He told the Commons: ” I just remind him actually of the words of the deputy leader of the Scottish Government who welcomed it when the Labour government put up NI by a penny to pay for national health service.
“He said ‘I’m absolutely delighted’…It’s a guy called John Swinney, ‘I’m absolutely delighted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has now accepted that progressive, progressive, taxation is required to invest in the health service in Scotland’.
“I mean, get your story straight. This is more cash for people in Scotland, it’s more investment for families in Scotland, it’s good for Scotland and good for the whole United Kingdom.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also criticised the planned 1.25% rise in National Insurance contributions, saying they were a tax on jobs and working people.
However Mr Johnson said Labour did not offer any credible alternative to fix the social care problems in England and support the NHS.
Mr Starmer said: ” His plan is to impose unfair taxes on working people, my plan is to ensure those with the broadest shoulders pay their fair share.
“The truth is his plans don’t do what he claims. People will still face huge bills, many home owners will need to sell their homes, he’s not denying it when he could have done.”
He added: “Who’s going to pay for the cost of this failure? Working people… a care worker earning the minimum wage doesn’t get a pay rise under this plan, but does get a tax rise, in what world is that fair?
Mr Johnson replied: “The Institute for Fiscal Studies has confirmed that this is a broad-based and progressive measure.”
He added: “In 2018 the current shadow secretary of state for social care (Liz Kendall) joined forces with Nick Boles and Norman Lamb to promote a new dedicated health and social care tax based on National Insurance … She said this was to be the country’s Beveridge moment. Is the Labour Party really going to vote against the new Beveridge moment tonight?”
Liberal Democrats leader sir Ed Davey said the plans showed the Prime Minister had forgotten family carers.
He said family carers had a “lifetime of experience” to improve care and accused Boris Johnson of “taking us for granted”.
The Lib Dem leader, who cares for his son, added: “Yesterday’s social care plan forgot family carers, yet we are the millions wiping bottoms, washing and dressing our loved ones, whether they are elderly or disabled, ill or dying.
“We carers just want a fair deal. So will the Prime Minister raise carers’ allowance? Will he guarantee proper breaks for carers? Will he change employment law so we can balance caring with work? And will he ensure there are enough professional carers to help – starting with a new visa for carers?”
Mr Johnson replied: “I think the whole House acknowledges the massive debt we owe to unpaid carers up and down the country. We thank them for what they are doing. What this plan does is, of course, mean that there will be a huge injection of support both in the private sector and from the Government into caring across the board.
“I believe that will support unpaid carers as well since they will no longer have the anxiety, for instance, that their elderly loved ones could see the loss of all their possessions.”