Health and Social Care Levy Debate

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Department: HM Treasury

Health and Social Care Levy

Chris Bryant Excerpts
1st reading
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Health and Social Care Levy Act 2021 View all Health and Social Care Levy Act 2021 Debates Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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Of course, it is impossible to say in advance what the impact will be, but I would direct my right hon. Friend to the remarks of the Institute for Fiscal Studies where it said that

“based on detailed analysis to be published later this week…this could be enough to meet the pandemic-related pressures on the NHS.”

I think that is a fairly—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Will the Minister give way?

Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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No. I have already taken a few, and I will go on a bit further, if I may, and then I will take some more interventions. [Interruption.] Well, the hon. Gentleman has had a fairly substantial go at points of order already, and I welcome his later intervention.

The levy will apply UK-wide to taxpayers liable to class 1 employee and employer, class 1A, class 1B and class 4 self-employed NICs. However, it will not apply where taxpayers pay class 2 NICs or class 3 NICs. It will be introduced from April 2022, and then from April 2023 the levy will also apply to those working over the state pension age. As my hon. and right hon. Friends will understand, it takes time for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to prepare its systems for such a major shift. That is why, in 2022-23, the levy will be delivered through a temporary increase in NICs rates of 1.25% for one year only. All revenues generated by this increase will be ring-fenced and paid to NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales and the equivalent in Northern Ireland.

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Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves
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The Minister has had a chance and he did not manage it. I will take an intervention from my hon. Friend.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Seventy per cent. of my constituents own their own home. The average house price in my constituency is £98,000. My constituents on lower than average wages in the country will be asked to contribute more in national insurance. Is it not manifestly unfair that they will still have to find £86,000, and the only place they will find that is out of the £98,000, so as to fund millionaires in south-east England to pass on the whole of their inheritance to their children?

Rachel Reeves Portrait Rachel Reeves
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My hon. Friend makes the point very well. People will still have to sell their homes to pay for care under these plans. There were three important points—

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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I rise to welcome, broadly, the motion. It seems to me that social care is one of those issues that parties of both colours have grappled with for many years, yet now we are at last at the point where a Government have the courage and are sensible enough to actually come forward with some realistic proposals. As to the breaking of manifesto commitments, no party ever wishes to do that, but listening to the Opposition it seems to me as if the global pandemic never occurred, as if the economy never shrank by the greatest level since 1709 during the great frost of that year, as if millions of jobs were never imperilled, and as if this Government never had to step in fiscally in a way that probably no Government outside wartime have ever had to do, and with such positive effects.

When it comes to the honesty or otherwise of what the Government have done, I think they have been upfront, very clear and very honest in making it clear that they have broken that commitment, unlike, I have to say, the less straightforward way in which, repeatedly in this debate, the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor have ducked the fundamental question: what is the Opposition’s alternative plan? In response to an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott), the shadow Chancellor, when asked why Labour had supported an increase in national insurance in 2003, said, “Well, we had a plan.” I humbly remind her that that was 18 years ago. What we need to see now is a plan from the Opposition, as well as the criticism.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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The right hon. Gentleman and I have known each other for a very long time. I just hope that he could explain to my constituents why it is right that practically everybody in the Rhondda would have to sell their home to meet the £86,000 cost, whereas next to nobody would have to do so in his constituency.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride
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First, the hon. Gentleman’s knowledge of my constituency is obviously rather deficient, because I expect that mine shares many characteristics in common with his. I do not dispute the fact that any major fiscal move, such as putting up national insurance and bringing in this levy in this manner, will have associated complexities and difficulties. My pledge to the House is that the Treasury Committee will, I am sure, after private discussion, decide that we wish to look more closely at a number of the issues that are being raised in this debate, including the one that he mentioned.

Let us be honest about the options that were available to the Treasury. How could we have squared the circle and funded £10 billion-plus a year? The first thing that the Treasury could have done is to seek to cut expenditure in other areas, yet I have no doubt that if it came forward with any proposals of that nature, the Opposition would have fiercely resisted that as austerity all over again. We have to understand that on the current projections, there are many unfunded commitments, including, for example, keeping our railways going, going for net zero, additional funding that will be needed for school catch-up and so on.