Boris Johnson has seen off a Tory rebellion to secure MPs’ backing for his controversial £12 billion tax hike to deal with the NHS Covid backlog and reform social care funding.
The Commons voted by 319 to 248 in favour of the 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance contributions despite deep unhappiness among many Conservative MPs.
Five backbenchers voted against the measure while another 37 did not vote – although not all would have deliberately abstained, as some would have had permission to be away from Westminster.
The five rebels included former cabinet ministers Sir John Redwood and Esther McVey along with Sir Christopher Chope, Philip Davies and Neil Hudson.
At least another five – Jake Berry, Steve Baker, Dehenna Davison, Richard Drax and Sir Roger Gale – indicated that they were deliberately abstaining.
The result announced in the chamber meant the Government’s working majority of more than 80 was reduced to 71 – although a division list released later recorded only 317 votes for the measure.
It follows a series of discrepancies in recent months over the number of votes announced in the Commons and on the official division list.
The result reflected concern within the Tory ranks that Mr Johnson was not only abandoning a manifesto promise not to raise the main rates of taxes but that he was taking the tax burden to record peacetime levels.
There was dismay that a scheme to place a lifetime cap of £86,000 on social care costs in England would primarily benefit elderly households in the more affluent parts of the South at the expense of working families elsewhere.
Some MPs also questioned whether the promised slice of funding for social care in England would ever reach it or would be absorbed first by the NHS.
In the Commons debate, Jake Berry, the leader of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, warned that it was a levy which would “never go down, it can only go up”.
“It is fundamentally un-Conservative and in the long term it will massively damage the prospects of our party because we will never outbid the Labour Party in the arms race of an NHS tax,” he said.
Ministers meanwhile turned on Labour for voting against a measure which will deliver extra funding for the NHS.
Conservative Party co-chairman Amanda Milling said: ”They have voted against crucial funding to tackle Covid backlogs in our hospitals and capping care costs for the elderly and vulnerable, all while offering no plan of their own.”
Labour argued that funding the scheme through increasing National Insurance was unfair and a “tax on jobs” and that it would not end the need for people to sell their homes to meet the costs of social care.