politics

Johnson tax pledge to ‘put money back in pockets’


Boris Johnson will on Sunday commit a Tory government to not raise income tax, VAT or national insurance for five years as he promises to “put more money back in people’s pockets” after Brexit.

Launching the Conservatives’ general election manifesto, the prime minister will also pledge to protect the value of state pensions, boost spending by £1bn on childcare during school terms and holidays, and cut energy bills by up to £750 a year for those in social housing.

But Johnson is expected to put off a firm decision on root-and-branch reform of the social care system, and call instead for cross-party agreement on the issue after the election. A botched policy on reforming care for the elderly was blamed for the Tories’ poor performance at the 2017 election under Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.

A key aim of Johnson’s Tory manifesto will be to focus voters’ minds on what he claims will be the economic benefits for them and the country once the UK has left the EU, and a majority government is able to concentrate its energies on domestic issues.

“Imagine the relief the whole nation will feel if we do this – if a Conservative majority is returned on 12 December so we can get Brexit done,” Johnson will tell a Tory audience in the West Midlands. “Uncertainty ended, investment unlocked, a nation moving forward once again,” he will say.

The manifesto – entitled Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential – also aims to create sharp, clear dividing lines with Labour over Brexit, tax and the economy.

Labour has promised to negotiate an entirely new Brexit agreement with Brussels if it comes to power and then hold another referendum within six months, meaning the issue of whether the UK leaves or remains in the EU will not be decided finally until well into 2020.

Johnson, on the other hand, will stress that he would bring back the Brexit withdrawal bill to the House of Commons before Christmas if he secures a majority in parliament, allowing the UK to leave before 31 January next year.

Last week, Labour promised a radical programme to redistribute wealth by introducing a new 45p rate of tax for people earning over £80,000, and a 50p band for those earning over £125,000. Johnson, by contrast, will stress his determination to be on the side of aspiration.

When May unveiled her proposals to cap social care costs during the 2017 election campaign they were quickly labelled the “dementia tax” by opposition parties and were widely seen as having cost the Tories a majority.

On Saturday, health secretary Matt Hancock indicated the Tories would not commit to a firm policy on reforming adult social care in the manifesto, saying they would instead seek to work with other parties to build a consensus. Hancock said it would include a three-point plan for adult social care – including £5bn in additional short-term funding.

However, he said that the party was determined to find a long-term solution to end the “injustice” where some people are forced to sell their homes to fund care needs.

“Everybody knows that this is not a problem that can be fixed with just more short-term measures. So we are also going to urgently seek a cross-party consensus,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Saturday programme.

On childcare, Johnson will say it is the Tories’ ambition to ensure 250,000 more primary school children can benefit from childcare during the summer holiday. A special £250m scheme will be set up to help school hire staff outside the normal school year, and to buy special equipment and hire premises. A Tory government would also invest £6.3bn to improve energy efficiency in 2.2 million “disadvantaged homes”, including through improving insulation and replacing boilers.

Union leaders have reacted with anger to an expected announcement that the Conservatives will attempt to curb all-out rail strikes. The manifesto is expected to include plans to legislate for some services to run during industrial action.

The move comes before 27 days of strikes during December on South Western Railway by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in the long-running dispute over guards on trains. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Banning strikes is the hallmark of the rightwing junta, not a democratically elected British government. RMT would fight any attempt to strip our members of their basic human rights.”



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