Rishi Sunak snaps back: Chancellor brutally rejects Rees-Mogg’s NI demands in savage swipe
Speaker has to bring order to Commons in Rees-Mogg debate
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It is understood Mr Rees-Mogg raised the current cost of living crisis at Cabinet yesterday. He urged his colleague to reverse his decision to impose a 1.25 percent rise on the tax to help the NHS deal with the backlog caused by the pandemic and to fund social care.
It was a Conservative manifesto pledge not to increase the tax, but the Government said coronavirus had left it with no choice but to increase the rate.
A significant number of Tory MPs oppose the hike being imposed in April, as does Labour, and Lord Frost resigned from the Cabinet citing high taxation as one of his major concerns.
However, Mr Sunak is sticking to his guns and going ahead with the rise.
“It’s always easy to duck difficult decisions but I don’t think that’s the responsible thing to do,” the Chancellor said this afternoon.
“I think people’s priorities are for us to invest in the NHS, to invest in social care.
“We need to make sure that those investments are funded sustainably, that’s what we’re doing.”
Referring to the disagreement over policy with Mr Rees-Mogg, he added: “I have enormous respect for all my colleagues, and if you take a step back and look at why we’re in this situation, it’s because we’re facing an unprecedented level of backlogs in the NHS and we as a Government don’t think it’s acceptable.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman also rejected demands for a delay to the tax increases, saying there were “no plans to do that”.
He said of the extra NHS and health care funding: “This money will in the first instance go towards tackling that backlog.
“That’s what the public want to see, that’s their priority and that’s what we will deliver on.
“In the longer term, it will also tackle another fundamental issue, which has been left aside for too long, the unfairness in our current social care system.”
Amid the rift in the Cabinet, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said all ministers were bound by the principle of collective responsibility that requires them to publicly support Government policy.
Declining to comment on the specifics of discussions in yesterday’s meeting, Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’ve made our decisions. We have a collective responsibility.
“There’s a very, very good case, I think everybody will agree, for both catching up with the backlog coronavirus has created in NHS operations and procedures and for solving a historic, rather unforgivable situation where, if you happen to come down with certain types of illnesses, particularly things like dementia, you can end up losing your home because social care doesn’t look after you.
“We made the decision as a Government to look after those things and we set out how we’ll do it, which is a National Insurance increase.”
Mr Rees-Mogg did not deny calling for the increase to be scrapped when appearing in the Commons for Business Questions.
Labour took advantage of the split on the issue to this morning mock Mr Rees-Mogg.
Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire joked the North East Somerset MP “turns out to be more socialist than he has hitherto let on”.
She asked if he was preparing to join the Labour Party.
Responding, Mr Rees-Mogg sidestepped commenting on whether he had made the demands for NI to be cut.
He said: “She thinks that I may be converted to her way of thinking.
“I think this is wishful thinking, it has to be said.”
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