PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has announced a 1.25% increase in National Insurance from April 2022 to address the funding crisis in England's health and social care system.

The Tory leader branded the tax rise a "health and social care levy" after fierce criticism from his own party members.

Despite the SNP's Ian Blackford accusing the Tories of bringing in a new poll tax by increasing tax to fund English social care reforms, Johnson claimed the NI rise is a "Union dividend worth £300 million".

The National:

Johnson accepted that the tax rise counts as a breach of his manifesto promise, but said a global pandemic was in nobody's 2019 General Election manifesto. 

He said the additional revenue from the NI increase would pay for the biggest catch-up programme in the history of the NHS in England, with £12 billion a year to help deal with the backlog of cases built up during the pandemic.

It will also cover the reform of the social care system in England, ending what Downing Street described as “unpredictable and catastrophic” care costs faced by many families.

From October 2023, anyone with assets under £20,000 have their care costs fully covered by the state, while those with between £20,000 and £100,000 will be expected to contribute to their costs but will also receive state support.

No-one will have to pay more than £86,000 for care costs in their lifetime.

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Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive an additional £2.2bn in additional health and social care spending from the levy, he claimed.

In response to the statement, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said health is a devolved issue and the Prime Minister can “get his mitts” off Scotland’s health system.

The Speaker had to cut off Blackford as his comment produced heckling from the Conservative benches, urging MPs to listen. The SNP MP described those shouting him down as a “baying mob”.

“This is the Prime Minister’s poll tax on Scottish workers to pay for England’s social care," Blackford said.

Replying, Johnson said the burden falls “most heavily on those who have the broadest shoulders” and told Blackford that his characterisation of it as a poll tax is “completely wrong”.

Following the exchange Ian Blackford urged the Tories to ditch the National Insurance increase, adding that if it goes ahead Scotland must get "every penny it is due" in Barnett consequentials.

The National:

"It is increasingly clear that there is no chance of a fair recovery under Westminster control," he added. "The only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory cuts and tax hikes is to become an independent country, with the full powers needed to build a strong, fair and equal recovery."

Meanwhile Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister’s “pretence” that he is taking the action he is on NHS and social care funding because of the pandemic “is not going to wash”.

"He is putting a sticking plaster over gaping wounds which his party inflicted," Starmer told the Commons. "He made that commitment on social care before the pandemic and he said he would pay for it without raising taxes before the pandemic.”

Earlier today the Cabinet backed Johnson’s plans to reform health and social care funding. 

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Cabinet agreed to the proposals set out.

“There was strong agreement that this is a long-standing issue, particularly on the social care side, which had been ducked for too long and which needed to be addressed.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said they set out the plan to tackle Covid backlogs in the health system, reform adult social care and “bring the health and social care systems closer together on a long-term sustainable footing”.