RISHI Sunak has unveiled an £86 billion tax cut package to be funded by cutting benefits at the launch of the Conservative manifesto.

The party’s battle plan also sets out a flagship pledge to cut National Insurance by a further 2p as well as the long-term ambition to abolish it altogether.

Speaking at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, Sunak attempted to turn around Tory fortunes and stem the tide of voters switching to Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, with promises of tax cuts and reduced levels of migration.

The Conservatives are consistently polling around 20 points behind Labour in the run up to election day. 

He said the Tories would “halve migration and then reduce it every single year”. 

Sunak also said the Conservatives would abolish both stamp duty and the main rate of self employed National Insurance “entirely” in the course of the next parliament.

The manifesto also set out ambitions to:

  • Create 100,000 more apprenticeships and create a “bold new model of National Service”
  • Close “worse-performing” university courses
  • Get defence spending up to 2.5% of GDP by 2030
  • Make personal allowance rise for pensioners rise every year, meaning pensioners will never pay tax on their pension
  • Double free childcare so parents can access to 30 hours of free childcare from the time their kids are 9 months old to the time they start school

In a speech that came 15 minutes late, Sunak hailed the achievements of 14 years of Tory rule of which he said he was “mighty proud”, including that the “forces of separatism” were “in retreat”.

And he claimed the Tories had made the UK “a better place to live”.

Tax cut pledges 

The Tories reduced employees’ National Insurance from 10% to 8% at the March budget, following a similar cut in autumn 2023, at an annual cost of almost £10bn by 2028/29.

The Tories also promised to abolish the main rate of self-employed national insurance entirely by the end of the Parliament.

The manifesto commits to cutting employee national insurance to 6% by April 2027 at an estimated cost of £10.3bn in 2029-30.

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On top of the already implemented cuts, the manifesto said it would amount to a total tax reduction of £1350 for the average worker on £35,000.

The party also confirmed its pledge not to increase income tax or VAT rates.

In total, the package of employee and self-employed national insurance cuts – combined with the previously announced “triple lock plus” tax break for pensioners, child benefit changes, stamp duty and capital gains tax measures – would amount to a £17.2 billion annual cost to the Exchequer by 2029-30.

That is £86bn over the next five years, which Sunak said would be paid for by curbing the “unsustainable” rise in welfare. 

James Taylor, Director of Strategy at disability equality charity Scope said: “Our welfare system needs fixing, but cuts to disability benefits are not the answer.

“Whichever party is in power after the election we’d urge them not to take the most from those with the least."

Sunak also claimed that £20bn could be recouped for public finances by improving economic productivity.

His speech at Silverstone, where Brad Pitt was also filming a new picture, was peppered with references to the Hollywood star. 

In an attack on Keir Starmer (above), who Sunak claimed was secretly planning to hike taxes, Sunak invoked the film Fight Club, saying: "The first rule of Labour tax rises is you don't talk about Labour tax rises." 

Immigration promises

Sunak has been forced to tread a fine line on immigration, as he desperately battles to win voters back from Reform.  

The manifesto commits to require migrants to undergo a health check in advance of coming to the UK – with the prospect of paying a higher rate of the immigration health surcharge or forcing them to purchase insurance if they are “likely to be a burden on the NHS”.

It confirmed plans for a “binding, legal cap” on work and family visas which would “fall every year of the next Parliament and cannot be breached”.

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The document stops short of saying the UK could leave the European Convention on Human Rights, as some on the Tory right including former home secretary Suella Braverman have called for.

The convention, and the Strasbourg court which rules on it, have been seen as a stumbling block in the effort to put asylum seekers on flights to Rwanda, part of the plan to deter small boat crossings of the English Channel.

Cabinet members have reportedly warned Sunak against a commitment to leave the ECHR, but he has indicted he would be willing do so if he felt it necessary to plough ahead with immigration reforms. 

The manifesto said: “We will run a relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants to Rwanda with a regular rhythm of flights every month, starting this July, until the boats are stopped.

“If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECHR, we will always choose our security.”

Pat McFadden, Labour's national campaign coordinator, said: "This Conservative manifesto is a recipe for five more years of Tory chaos.

“After 14 years in power, the Prime Minister’s desperate manifesto published today is stuffed full of unfunded spending commitments.

“The Prime Minister that was brought in to be the antidote to the chaos of Liz Truss has instead become the next instalment of the same thing.

“Tory desperation leads to costs for the British people. The public is still paying the price of the Conservatives crashing the economy. Now they promise a repeat if they win again leading to higher mortgages and a weaker economy."