Reeves: I’ll reverse abolition of 45% income tax rate to fund NHS staffing surge

The shadow chancellor said a Labour administration would also implement the “biggest expansion of medical school places in British history”.

26 September 2022

A Labour government would fund a surge in NHS staffing by reversing tax cuts for the highest earners in Britain, according to Rachel Reeves.

The shadow chancellor said the party would reinstate the top income tax rate of 45% on earnings above £150,000 and use the money generated to train more new district nurses, health visitors and midwives.

Ms Reeves said a Labour administration would also implement the “biggest expansion of medical school places in British history” in a bid to ensure the NHS has the “doctors it needs”.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng last week announced that, from April, the 660,000 earners getting more than £150,000 a year will no longer pay the top income tax rate of 45% and will instead pay the 40% applicable to those on more than £50,271.

In a “pro-business” and “pro-worker” speech, Ms Reeves also confirmed a pledge to guarantee a minimum wage that “reflects the real cost of living” if she becomes chancellor.

Ms Reeves, on the plan for a Labour government to establish a national wealth fund in a bid to invest in new industries, declared this would result in a zero-carbon economy “made in Britain”.

Ahead of her keynote speech to the conference in Liverpool, Ms Reeves accused Mr Kwarteng of having “fanned the flames” of the plummeting pound by hinting at fresh “unfunded” tax cuts.

The pound fell to the lowest level against the US dollar since decimalisation in 1971, dropping by more than 4% to just 1.03 dollars before gaining some ground as trading picked up on Monday.

Ms Reeves then used her approach to set about ditching some of Mr Kwarteng’s proposals.

She told delegates: “With a Labour government, those at the top will pay their fair share. The 45p top rate of income tax is coming back.

“Here’s what we will do with that money. The next Labour government will double the number of district nurses qualifying every year, we will train more than 5,000 new health visitors, we will create an additional 10,000 nursing and midwife placements every year.

“More than that, we will implement the biggest expansion of medical school places in British history, doubling the number of medical students so our NHS has the doctors it needs.”

Labour Party Conference 2022
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves visit an insulation project on a social housing site in Bootle, Merseyside (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Elsewhere, Sir Keir Starmer was also blaming the Tory Government for the “real turmoil” in the financial markets, while speaking at a Bloomberg business event.

Although the Labour leader said his party would reverse the abolition of the 45% tax rate on earnings above £150,000, he has backed the reduction of the basic rate to 19p in the pound.

Ms Reeves suggested Labour would pay for the tax cut with borrowing, warning it was just the scale of the Government’s borrowing that had “spooked the markets”.

“When I set out my fiscal rules last year I said that in emergency situations – and we are absolutely in a national emergency at the moment – you can borrow and the Government is borrowing, it’s the scale of the borrowing…” she said.

Ms Reeves used her party conference speech to announce that a Labour government would create a state-owned investment fund to back projects which could generate wealth for the nation.

The fund would begin with an initial £8.3 billion investment to fund green industries.

Ms Reeves had the main speech at the gathering on Monday, but Sir Keir will also appear at the conference alongside former England footballer Gary Neville.

Former Manchester United defender Neville said he had been “unnerved” by reports the Government was preparing to shelve plans for an independent regulator for football.

The Government gave its formal backing to the idea of a regulator in April in its formal response to the fan-led review, but The Times reported that Prime Minister Liz Truss and her new administration could be set to abandon those plans.

The Labour Party committed itself to bringing forward the legislation needed to underpin a regulator at its annual conference on Monday should the Conservatives not do so.

Neville, a big advocate of independent regulation in football, said at a Labour Party conference fringe event on Monday: “The cross has been played into the box, all Liz Truss needs to do with the other Cabinet ministers is head it into the back of the net.”

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