Boris Johnson ‘wobbling’ on National Insurance rise as he fuels speculation it may be ditched

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 (AFP/Getty)
(AFP/Getty)

Boris Johnson is “wobbling” on the planned National Insurance rise, it has been reported after he again fuelled speculation he could scrap the hike by refusing to guarantee it will go ahead.

The prime minister is coming under intense pressure to ditch or delay the 2.5 per cent hike, split between employees and employers, with reports suggesting many Tory backbenchers are making it a condition of their support in the expected confidence vote on his leadership.

Pressure on chancellor Rishi Sunak to scrap the rise heightened after official figures this week showed a £13bn windfall from lower-than-expected borrowing. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and leader of the commons Jacob Rees-Mogg are understood to be among those urging him to use the additional leeway to ease pressure on households facing a cost-of-living crisis.

The Guardian reported on Thursday night that Mr Sunak has privately stressed to MPs the need for the tax rise to go ahead as planned.

However, a government source told The Times Mr Johnson is considering delaying the rise for a year to appease Tory rebels. "He's wobbling, I think he would do anything to survive," they told the newspaper.

Downing Street again insisted on Thursday there was no plan to delay the health and social care levy, which is intended to raise £12bn a year to tackle the backlog of NHS treatments as well bolster funding for the social care system over the long term.

But Mr Johnson declined eight times during a broadcast interview to commit to the hike going ahead in April.

He also dodged the issue again during a visit to north Wales, when asked whether he could confirm that the tax rise will go ahead, stressing instead the need to raise money for the NHS.

“It is absolutely vital, I hope people understand, that we have to fund the Covid backlogs, we have to fix social care,” said the PM.

“Every penny will go to that end. I think people do understand. There hasn’t been a family in this country that hasn’t been affected by the Covid backlogs in one way or the other.

“We had to spend over £400bn keeping the British economy going during the lockdowns. We’ve got now to move forward, we’ve got to fix the Covid backlog, we’ve got to sort out social care. I think that’s the right thing to do.”

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