Government is in 'listening mode' says minister amid questions over National Insurance rise
The Government is in “listening mode” following widespread concern over the rise to National Insurance and the cost of living in the UK.
Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told BBC’s Question Time that “the top of the Government is in listening mode at the moment,” amid speculation that its proposed 1.25 percentage point rise could be delayed.
"There are plenty of people that are on good salaries that are starting to worry about how they're going to make ends meet and the Government is seeking to address that,” he added.
"We're going to need to do a lot over the next few years to help people with this."
It came as a senior Conservative said this morning that the Government should be looking at a windfall tax on big businesses rather than ordinary workers.
Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee, told the Today programme: “We have to make a choice - do we tax millions of low income workers or do we tax big business.
“This isn’t anything to do with leverage over the Prime Minister, this is about acknowledging that there is a cost of living problem for millions of people.”
The Prime Minister has come under pressure to drop or delay the rise to National Insurance, and has refused seven times in the past four days to confirm it is going ahead.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it would be "the wrong thing to do" to raise national insurance in April.
Speaking to broadcasters on a visit to Forge Market in Glasgow, Sir Keir said: "The Prime Minister needs to act on this. We've got a very serious issue here with everybody facing prices going up - whether that's fuel, energy bills at home, inflation going up to something like 6 per cent, the worst it's been since the John Major years - and at that very moment, Boris Johnson and his Government want to impose a tax hike on people in April.
"It was the wrong thing to do and we argued strongly it shouldn't have happened. So I'm glad if anybody is reconsidering this, but it should never have happened in the first place."
On Friday, Chris Philp, the culture minister, insisted that the move was going ahead as it had the backing of “the whole cabinet” and Parliament.
Chris Philp, when asked if it was "set in stone" - “Yes, it is going ahead. It was approved by the whole cabinet, it was passed by Parliament with a significant majority and the money is needed to fund the NHS which is something that is a national priority.
“It’s £36 billion over three years to fund the NHS and social care - we need to put that number in to make sure the NHS has the money it needs to recover after the pandemic, and this is a proportionate way of finding that money.
“The Government absolutely is in listening mode about the general broader cost of living issues. There are lots of measures in place to help address that.
“The cost of living issue is clearly a global issue due to inflation. Inflation in America is higher than it is here, it’s higher in Germany than it is here as well - it’s a global phenomenon but we do need to take action."