Ipswich MP Tom Hunt: Why I backed new health and social care tax

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt. Picture: PARLIAMENT LIVE TV

Ipswich MP Tom Hunt has outlined his support for the rise in National Insurance payments - Credit: Archant

On Wednesday this week I stood in the House of Commons Chamber to give my take on the new Health and Social Care Levy (which amounts to a 1.25% rise in National Insurance).

This new levy will help the NHS deal with a growing waiting list for urgent treatment that has come about as a result of the pandemic and will also allow the Government to introduce a new cap on social care costs.

One fact that has startled me to learn more than any other is that roughly only 25% of the population know that they have to pay for their own social care. This leaves an extraordinary number of individuals who, should they require social care extensively, are left completely surprised when the high bills start to pile up. 

A remarkable 1 in 7 of us will be in the position that we spend over £100,000 on social care and currently it is nothing short of a lottery as to who that might be. This Bill will remove that dark cloud that hangs over all our heads and give a sense of certainty in their future that will not leave them financially ruined.

To young individuals who feel that this only benefits those older generations I say, we all have relatives or close family members that are at risk of this lottery, and it will not be long before we too might find ourselves in the unfortunate position where our entire life’s work is on the line. 

I’ve also heard certain individuals claim that this will only back the ‘millionaires’ of this world but this could not be further from the truth. I witness daily the personal stories of constituents who are paying social care bills many couldn’t comprehend, having to sell their houses and sacrifice all their savings to pay for this care. These people are not millionaires, they are hardworking folk who have spent decades contributing to our community and raising a family here in Ipswich.

It is by chance that they have conditions such as Dementia or Alzheimer’s that has now left them and their families spending hundreds of thousands and without a penny left to show for their decades of hard work. I do not think it unreasonable for those who have paid tax on what they earned their entire life to have something to show for it at the end and to pass it to their loved ones.

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The way I see it is that it is morally wrong for individuals to see all that they have worked for whittled away to nothing and I am proud to support a cap of £86,000 which addresses that. 

It’s also important to face the realities. Waiting times in the NHS are spiralling out of control and we have spent £400 billion since the start of the pandemic to help ensure our health care system, and country, stay afloat.

I am contacted daily by constituents waiting in pain for an operation, or who were due to have one, only to find it is being pushed back again.

I also recognise that many residents are not able to see their GP face to face, or if they can, it is a 6 week wait. In my mind it is a basic feature of a National Health Service that you should be able to see a doctor within a reasonable time frame. I am pleased to see that this ring-fenced funding will initially combat this backlog that urgently needs addressing. 
It would have been very easy for the Prime Minister to kick this into the long grass and wait until it is forced upon another government’s doorstep. But he hasn’t. He’s grasped that nettle and shown leadership that has saved future generations from paying the cost of our generation’s care, and acted to prevent our NHS from spiralling to a point where it just doesn’t function effectively anymore. We cannot allow ourselves to be naïve in thinking that we can ignore the lasting difficulties of tackling COVID.

This government has already seen a 4% increase in the NHS spending in real terms. It continues to show it is committed to the NHS and this is further a sign that this commitment is genuine.

The practicalities of this levy show that a worker on £25,100 per year would pay £180 more compared to an individual on £66,100 per year who would now pay £715. In my mind these are reasonable amounts to ensure that end of life care is there for you should you need it and that the dark cloud hanging over all of us is finally blown away.

We do need to know more about the £20,000-£100,000 costs and how they will be subsidised in practice, and I will scrutinise this when it is presented to Parliament. I understand Councils will help play a part but I am eager to see that this is further clarified. 

I also see Labour, as usual, are talking much but saying little. Their lack of any form of plan to tackle this issue is replaced by cries that a manifesto promise has been broken.

I know we have all been in lockdown but do Labour not recognise that this was because a global pandemic occurred since that manifesto was written? In November 2019 when the Manifesto was announced there were promises on tax, social care, and National Insurance but there was no plan to spend £400 billion to tackle a global pandemic. It was totally without the precedence of the situation we are now in.

Whilst I am never keen to see a promise broken, I am glad to see a government is pragmatic enough to look to the future and tackle another manifesto promise to fix social care. 

Their claims that this is akin to George H W Bush’s infamous “Read my lips…” line completely negates the fact that he did not have a pandemic happen a year after he stood for election. This argument is like writing a hypothetical manifesto in 1938 and then realising that thousands of Spitfires must be built because the Second World War is starting.

You wouldn’t complain that this couldn’t be financially done because it wasn’t outlined in a manifesto the year before. Events happen, and the mark of a good government is when they are able to react to those events and yet still think about the future.

I would have thought the Labour leader would know that, but perhaps that is just another hindsight. What is clear is that the Labour party voted against measures to raise £36 billion of funding over the next 3 years; funding that will be going to an NHS that desperately needs it to cope with the pandemic pressures and a social care system due for a much-needed overhaul. What’s more they did so without a plan of their own.

Whilst as a Conservative I never want to raise taxes; I genuinely believe this is both necessary and will do lasting good. This levy will see the top 14% of earners pay 50% of all contributions and will support those from all backgrounds who currently live-in fear that within a few years all their life’s earnings will evaporate. It is time this moral injustice was sorted, and I am pleased to have played a part.