RISHI Sunak today defended plans to hike National Insurance after being accused of asking the poorest Brits to bear the cost of Covid.
The Chancellor insisted it was “simply not right” to suggest working families will be hit hardest by the tax rise coming in this April.The Chancellor and PM are facing opposition from Tory MPs over the planned rise[/caption]
He and Boris Johnson have repeatedly vowed to press ahead with the move despite widespread calls from Tory MPs to U-turn.
Brits are being clobbered by spiralling inflation which has now hit 7% and is pushing up energy bills and the cost of everyday goods.
The rise in National Insurance is set to add to that woe and will sting the average earner on £24,000 for an extra £180.
Businesses will also have to pay more with firms warning they’ll have to pass on the cost to customers, further fuelling inflation.
But today the Chancellor defended the hike, which No 10 insists is needed to bring down NHS waiting lists after the pandemic.
Mr Sunak was accused of “asking the poorest and the least able to bear the costs” of Covid rather than “corporations generating the profits”.
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But he hit back: “If you look at how we’re doing this it has been cited by many independent people as a progressive way to raise the money.
“It’s not right that the poorest will bear the burden. In fact, six million people on the lowest income will not pay the levy at all.
“And half of all the revenue raised from the levy is paid by the top 15% of income tax payers.
“So it’s actually a highly progressive way to raise the funds we need. It’s wrong to say the burden will fall on the poorest.”
The Chancellor acknowledged that people are worried about rising prices but said the Government is taking action to help them.
And he hailed new GDP figures out today which show the economy grew by 7.5% last year and is now back to its pre-pandemic size.
He said: “Today’s figures show that despite Omicron the economy was actually remarkable resilient.
“We were the fastest growing economy in the G7 last year and we’re forecast to continue being the fastest growing economy this year as well.
“That shows our plans for the economy are working. But of course I know people are concerned about inflation, in particular rising energy prices.
“Although those are global challenges, where we can make a difference of course we will act.”
The Chancellor also slapped down suggestions from the Bank of England chief that companies shouldn’t offer bumper pay rises.
Andrew Bailey urged firms to show “quite clear restraint” over fears spiralling pay will only further feed inflation.
But his comments sparked outrage, coming at a time when millions of Brits are struggling to make ends meet.
Asked if he agreed with them, Rishi said: “It’s not the Government’s job to go and start telling people what they should be paid.
“In a free market economy it’s for those individual companies and employees to have that conversation.”
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