Johnson under fire over tax-cutting claims days before national insurance hike

Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of putting the Tory re-election campaign ‘over and above’ helping people pay their bills.

30 March 2022

Boris Johnson was heckled by opposition MPs after claiming he wants to cut taxes – just days before they are hiked by the Government.

The Opposition benches erupted in fury after the Prime Minister made the remark as he tried to counter criticism from Sir Keir Starmer about the Government’s response to the cost-of-living crisis.

Labour leader Sir Keir accused the Prime Minister of putting the Tory re-election campaign “over and above” helping people pay their bills.

Impact of increased cost of living
(PA Graphics)

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced measures to help households, including raising the national insurance threshold to help offset the impact of April’s tax hike.

It was previously announced that a UK-wide 1.25 percentage point increase in NI contributions will be introduced from April 6, with funds raised ring-fenced for health and social care.

Mr Sunak also reconfirmed that households will receive a rebate on their energy bills which will need to be repaid at a later date, and announced a desire for a 1p cut to the basic rate of income tax by 2024.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir said: “Does the Prime Minister still think that he and the Chancellor are tax-cutting Conservatives?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Yes, Mr Speaker, I certainly do, because this is the Government that has just introduced not only the biggest cut in fuel duty ever, but the biggest cut in tax for working people in the last 10 years – 70% of the population paying national insurance contributions will have a substantial tax cut as a result of what the Chancellor did.”

A Labour MP could be heard shouting: “Rubbish.”

Mr Johnson replied: “They don’t like it Mr Speaker. They always put up taxes.”

Sir Keir called on the Prime Minister to “cut the nonsense”, and said the Government is giving £1 back for every £6 taken in taxes over “15 taxes rises, the highest tax burden for 70 years”.

He asked: “Prime Minister, is that cutting taxes or is that raising taxes?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I don’t know where he has been for the last two years but even by the standards of Captain Hindsight to obliterate the biggest pandemic for the last century from his memory, to obliterate the £408 billion we have had to spend to look after people up and down the country, is quite extraordinary.

“This is a Government that is getting on with reducing the tax burden wherever we can, what we are doing – there is one measure I think he should be supporting – and that is the health and care levy to fund our NHS.”

The Labour leader joked: “I can only hope that his police questionnaire was bit more convincing than that.

“In 2024, when there just so happens to be a general election, they will introduce a small tax cut.

Sir Keir Starmer
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Government’s income tax cut is timed for the next general election (House of Commons/PA)

“That is not taking difficult decisions, it’s putting the Tory re-election campaign over and above helping people pay their bills. How did he find a Chancellor as utterly cynical as he is?”

Mr Johnson replied: “What we have is a Chancellor who took the tough decisions to look after the UK economy throughout the pandemic, who protected people up and down the land with £408 billion worth of support.”

Sir Keir renewed his calls for a “windfall tax” on the profits of oil and gas companies, with Mr Johnson insisting the firms are investing money.

The Labour leader said: “Income stealth tax: a tax on working people. Tuition fee raid: a tax on working people. National insurance hike: a tax on working people.”

After Sir Keir raised questions over lockdown rule breaches in Downing Street, he added: “He really does think it’s one rule for him and another rule for everyone else, that he can pass off criminality in his office and ask others to follow the law.

“That he can keep raising taxes and call himself a tax-cutter. That he can hike tax during a cost-of-living crisis and get credit for giving a bit back just before an election.

“When is he going to stop taking the British public for fools?”

Mr Johnson replied: “This is the leader of the Opposition who would have kept this country in lockdown… he has zero consistency on any issue. One thing we know is he’d like to take us back into the EU and take us back into lockdown if he possibly could.”

Just days before the tax hike, Mr Johnson went on to claim: “They want to keep people on benefits, we want to help people into work – and that’s what we’re doing in record numbers. They want to raise taxes, we want to cut taxes – and that’s what we’re doing.”

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