Politics latest news: National Insurance will be cut from Nov 6

·24 min read
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, is pictured in Downing Street on September 6  - Toby Melville /Reuters
Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, is pictured in Downing Street on September 6 - Toby Melville /Reuters

The National Insurance hike which was only introduced in April this year will be reversed from November, Kwasi Kwarteng has announced ahead of his "mini-Budget" tomorrow.

The Chancellor said the 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance contributions will be reversed from November 6.

The Government is also cancelling the planned Health and Social Care Levy which was due to replace the National Insurance rise as a new standalone tax from April 2023.

Mr Kwarteng has committed to keeping funding for health and social care services at the same level as if the levy was introduced, with the £13 billion a year now being found through general taxation.

The Chancellor said in a statement: "Taxing our way to prosperity has never worked. To raise living standards for all, we need to be unapologetic about growing our economy.

“Cutting tax is crucial to this – and whether businesses reinvest freed-up cash into new machinery, lower prices on shop floors or increased staff wages, the reversal of the Levy will help them grow, whilst also allowing the British public to keep more of what they earn.”

Scrapping the rise will mean 28 million people across the UK will keep an extra £330 a year, on average, in 2023/24, according to the Treasury.

​​Follow the latest updates below.

04:00 PM

That is all for today...

Thank you for joining me for today's politics live blog.

I will be back early tomorrow morning to guide you through the "mini-Budget".

03:38 PM

'Mini-Budget' at 9.30am

Kwasi Kwarteng's "mini-Budget" in the House of Commons will get underway at 9.30am tomorrow.

It is being described as a "statement on the government’s plans for growth".

03:25 PM

Campaigners welcome reversal of NI hike

John O’Connell, the chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance campaign group, said: “It’s long past time that the government abandoned this punishing tax hike on working people and employers alike.

“It never made any sense to introduce a tax which would see a huge hit to jobs and growth, just as the country was trying to get back on its feet.

“The Chancellor should go further on Friday and ensure this mini-Budget is a growth game-changer.”

03:18 PM

'A tax cut for workers'

03:01 PM

How will the Health and Social Care Levy be replaced?

The Health and Social Care Levy was due to bring in an extra £13 billion a year specifically to fund the NHS and the care sector.

That levy is now being scrapped but the Chancellor has insisted the extra funding levels will remain the same, just as if the levy had been introduced.

So where will the money come from? The Government has said it will find the lost cash through general taxation i.e. existing taxes.

Basically, the Government's hope is that the economy will grow in the coming months and years, increasing general tax receipts. That cash will then fill the hole left by the now scrapped levy.

Critics have pointed out that this is rather speculative.

02:45 PM

NI increase to be reversed from November 6

The National Insurance hike which was introduced in April this year will be reversed from November, Kwasi Kwarteng has announced ahead of his mini-Budget tomorrow.

The 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance contributions will be reversed from November 6.

The Government is also cancelling the planned Health and Social Care Levy which was due to replace the National Insurance rise as a new standalone tax from April 2023.

Mr Kwarteng has committed to keeping funding for health and social care services at the same level as if the levy was introduced, with the £13 billion a year now being found through general taxation.

02:34 PM

'Russia's war machine is now severely depleted'

James Heappey, the Armed Forces minister, is leading a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon on the situation in Ukraine.

He told MPs that "Russia's war machine is now severely depleted" and "seven months into this conflict, Russia lacks sufficient man power in the field to achieve any of its objectives and the mood of Moscow is changing quickly".

He said: "As the Russian army attempts to consolidate on a new defensive line, poor logistics mean that their troops are without food and supplies, morale continues to plummet and the Kremlin is worried about how to stop widespread desertions.

"On day 211 of a five day 'operation' none of Russia's initial objectives have been achieved. Their attempt to take Kyiv was thwarted. Their efforts to weaken Nato have backfired."

01:58 PM

Jeremy Hunt calls for GP appointment target rethink

Jeremy Hunt, the Tory former health secretary, has urged Therese Coffey to rethink her plan to introduce a two week target for GP appointments.

He told the House of Commons: "If targets were the answer we would have the best access in the world in the NHS because we have more targets than any other healthcare system in the world.

"GPs alone have 72 targets. Adding a 73rd won't help them or their patients because it is not more targets the NHS needs, it is more doctors."

01:54 PM

Therese Coffey reveals she waited nine hours at A&E

Therese Coffey, the Health Secretary, has revealed she recently endured a wait of nine hours in A&E as she insisted she remained committed to the target for patients to be seen within four hours.

Replying to questions from Labour, she told MPs: “I can absolutely say there will be no changes to the target for a four-hour wait in A&E.

“I believe it matters, and I’ll give you a personal experience recently. Just in July I went to A&E, I waited nearly nine hours myself to see a doctor and I still didn’t get any treatment.

“I was asked to go back the next day, so I went to a different hospital just three miles away and I was seen and treated appropriately. That’s the sort of variation that we’re seeing across the NHS.”

01:50 PM

'No plan for staffing, no real plan for the NHS'

Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow health secretary, told the House of Commons: "The Secretary of State is the third health secretary in less than three months. The faces change but the story remains the same. There is still no plan that comes close to meeting the scale of the challenge.

"No plan for staffing, no real plan for the NHS. So it is clear the longer the Conservatives are in power, the longer patients will wait. As Dr Dre might say, time for the next episode."

The last bit was a reference to Ms Coffey's phone alarm which recently disrupted a radio interview.

01:43 PM

'NHS facing worst crisis it has ever seen '

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, criticised the Government's new healthcare plans as he responded to Therese Coffey in the House of Commons.

He said the "NHS is facing the worst crisis it has ever seen" and that while under the last Labour government the NHS "treated patients well and on time" now there is an "annual winter crisis and now a year round crisis under the Conservatives".

"The Conservatives promising to fix the crisis in the NHS is like the arsonist promising to put out the fire they started," he said.

01:34 PM

Government considers 'ambulance auxiliary service'

Therese Coffey, the Health Secretary, said the Government is looking at setting up an "ambulance auxiliary service".

She told the House of Commons: “We will also be exploring the creation of an ambulance auxiliary service.”

Ms Coffey also said she wanted to draw on the “energy and enthusiasm” of people who volunteered during the pandemic to help the NHS.

01:30 PM

Therese Coffey unveils 'Plan for Patients'

Therese Coffey, the Health Secretary, is in the House of Commons unveiling her new "Plan for Patients" which includes a pledge to ensure GPs give patients an appointment within two weeks.

She said the scale of the challenges facing the NHS “necessitates a national endeavour”. She also admitted that treatment backlogs will "rise before they fall".

Outlining her plans in the Commons, she said: “Patients are my top priority and I will be their champion, focusing on the issues that most affect them or their loved ones.

“Most of the time patients have a great experience, but we must not paper over the problems that we face. We expect backlogs to rise before they fall as more patients come forward for diagnosis and treatment after the pandemic.

“The data shows sadly that there is too much variation in the access and care people receive across the country. The scale of the challenge necessitates a national endeavour.”

12:54 PM

Tories have 'lost control of the economy'

Rachel Reeves, Labour's shadow chancellor, has accused the Tories of having "lost control of the economy" after the Bank of England put up interest rates again (see the post below at 12.05).

Ms Reeves said: “Truss’s rate rise shows how this Tory government has lost control of the economy. Their failure to foot any of their energy package with a windfall tax on the enormous profits of oil and gas producers is creating dangerous uncertainty.

“Their choice to put such huge unfunded and uncosted sums on borrowing will leave British taxpayers paying for years and are pushing up mortgage costs for everyone. The Tories’ reckless approach is an immense risk to family finances.”

12:35 PM

Government will repeal tax hike

The Government will publish a bill cancelling the hike in National Insurance contributions, Downing Street has said.

A No 10 spokeswoman said the Health and Social Care Levy (Repeal) Bill was part of the Government’s commitment to “a low tax, high growth” economy.

“This is delivering on a commitment the PM made on the (Tory leadership) campaign trail,” the spokeswoman said.

12:21 PM

Video: Jacob Rees-Mogg mocked over paperwork woes

12:16 PM

Interest rates move a 'hammer blow'

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat's Treasury spokeswoman, described the 0.5 per cent hike to interest rates as a "monster rate rise".

She said: "This a hammer blow to struggling homeowners who are being punished by the Government's failure to control inflation.

"This monster rate rise could have been avoided if Conservative ministers bothered to take action sooner on energy bills and the rising cost of living. Instead, the Bank of England is left with no choice but to hike mortgage costs for millions."

12:05 PM

Bank of England hikes interest rates by 0.5 per cent

The Bank of England has raised interest rates to 2.25 per cent from 1.75 per cent – the highest level since November 2008.

The Bank has also said it now expects a 0.1 per cent fall in GDP over the current quarter, indicating that the country is already in a recession.

You can follow the latest on the economy over at our business live blog here.

11:52 AM

Tory MP: Communities being 'bought off' on fracking

Conservative MP Mark Fletcher said it appeared communities could be “bought off” to allow fracking under the Government’s plans.

The MP for Bolsover in Derbyshire said: “I’ve listened carefully to the Secretary of State and I have to say the local consent plans don’t seem to wash.

“It seems to come back to communities being bought off rather than having a vote. So, can the Secretary of State confirm once and for all if local residents across Bolsover, who are concerned about fracking, will get a vote to object to these schemes locally?”

Jacob Rees-Mogg replied: “I think I made it very clear that the companies will have a deep responsibility to develop packages that make the extraction of shale gas attractive to local communities. It is really important that they succeed in that.”

11:32 AM

Minister under pressure over fracking consent

Paul Maynard, a Tory former minister, told Jacob Rees-Mogg he was "yet to hear any explanation of how local consent will be determined" when it comes to whether new fracking projects should go ahead.

He asked: "Will my constituents be asked whether they want fracking or not?"

Mr Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, replied: "We will be looking to have the support of local communities. That is important. And there will be a responsibility for the companies when they bring forward proposals to work out how they can get that local consent.

"It seems to me pretty clear that will involve giving money to people to encourage them because they will want to have the benefit locally whilst they are doing something that helps the country nationally."

11:22 AM

'Safety of the public is not a currency in which some of us choose to speculate'

Sir Greg Knight, the Tory MP for East Yorkshire, has criticised the decision to lift the ban on fracking in England.

He told Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons: "Despite what he has said is it not the case that forecasting the occurrence of seismic events as a result of fracking remains a challenge to the experts?

"Is it not therefore creating a risk of an unknown quantity to pursue shale gas exploration at the present time?

"Is he aware the safety of the public is not a currency in which some of us choose to speculate?"

Mr Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, disagreed and said "it is all a matter of proportionality".

11:17 AM

'We obviously want to work with local communities'

The fracking announcement has not been well-received by some Tory MPs.

Mark Menzies, the Tory MP for Fylde, told Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, that Liz Truss had been "crystal clear" that new fracking sites would need local consent to proceed.

He asked specifically how communities will be able to demonstrate that consent.

Mr Rees-Mogg replied: "We obviously want to work with local communities and it is really important that the companies who seek to extract shale gas come up with packages that make what they are proposing to do welcome to local communities."

11:10 AM

Fracking decision a 'dangerous experiment'

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, is now answering an urgent question in the House of Commons on the decision to lift the ban on fracking.

He told MPs that it is important to "use all available sources of fuel within this country" and fracking is therefore something "we need to revisit".

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate change secretary, said the fracking move will not make any difference at all to domestic energy bills.

He told the minister: "Why doesn't he admit the truth that anyone who knows anything about this subject says his claim that fracking will cut bills is nonsense?"

Mr Miliband labelled lifting the moratorium on fracking a "dangerous experiment".

10:40 AM

Median earner '£500 worse off this year'

Xiaowei Xu, a researcher at the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, said soaring inflation will mean people across the income spectrum will see a hit to their living standards this year.

“In real terms we expect the median earner to be £500 worse off than they were last year, which is around a three per cent cut in their net income,” she said.

“High earners – but not very higher earners – will be more than £1,000 worse off which is a larger increase in percentage terms. Low earners and those who are out of work will be more shielded from the rising cost of living, both in cash terms and as a share of income."

She added: “Even after the Government is spending vast amounts of money to protect households from the rising cost of living, most households would still see their living standards fall this year compared to last year.”

10:33 AM

'Biggest tax cutting fiscal event since 1988'

Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, has said tomorrow's "mini-Budget" is actually nothing of the sort.

He told an IFS event this morning: "This will actually be, we think, be the biggest tax cutting fiscal event since Nigel Lawson's Budget of 1988.

"So it may not be a Budget but in terms of tax cuts it is going to be bigger than any Budget for more than 30 years."

10:25 AM

Labour labels fracking move 'a charter for earthquakes'

10:23 AM

'Treating people in rural areas like guinea pigs'

The Liberal Democrats have accused the Government of showing a "callous disregard" for the countryside after it confirmed it is lifting the ban on fracking (see the post below at 09.05).

Wera Hobhouse, the Lib Dem's environment spokeswoman, said: "The government's own experts have refused to say fracking is safe.

"That they choose to plough on regardless shows a callous disregard for our communities and countryside. From Surrey to Somerset, the government are treating people in rural areas like guinea pigs."

10:18 AM

Jacob Rees-Mogg confirms business energy support

Jacob Rees-Mogg has confirmed to MPs the Government’s plans to help businesses with rocketing energy bills (you can read the details of the plan in full here).

Mr Rees-Mogg told the Commons: “It is vital that businesses have the support they need to pay their energy bills this winter.

“His Majesty’s Government is determined to grow the economy. We cannot do that if business becomes insolvent thanks to what is tantamount to blackmail by a malevolent state actor.

“The Government announced yesterday that it will be providing a discount on wholesale gas and electricity prices for all non-domestic customers whose current gas and electricity prices have been significantly inflated by global energy prices.”

He added: “This includes all UK businesses and covers the voluntary sector such as charities, and the public sector such as schools and hospitals.”

10:15 AM

Jacob Rees-Mogg told off by Speaker

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has admonished Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, after the Government's plans to help businesses with rising energy bills appeared in newspapers before they were announced in the House of Commons.

Labour was granted an urgent question in the Commons this morning on the help for businesses, with Mr Rees-Mogg responding.

But before the UQ started, Sir Lindsay told the House: "I have to say how disappointed I am that the subject of the UQ was extensively set out in the media yesterday before being presented to the House."

The Commons Speaker said it is "important policies are first to be heard in this House" and he hopes it is the "last time" it will happen.

He added: "I am not angry, I am so disappointed. And I hope that we will treat the House with the respect it is due."

10:05 AM

Therese Coffey denies being 'part-time' Health Secretary

Therese Coffey is both Health Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. She has an office in her department as well as in No 10.

Both are seemingly big jobs and there have been questions in Whitehall about how one person could do both at the same time.

ITV Good Morning Britain presenter and former Labour cabinet minister Ed Balls this morning said he had turned down a similar dual role under Gordon Brown because he wanted to focus on his then job as children’s secretary.

Asked if it was possible to do both of her jobs properly, Ms Coffey told him: “I’m conscious that in two weeks we’ve already pulled together our plan for patients and we will continue to develop that.”

She added: “I don’t think it will be a case of being part-time... we don’t have fixed working hours. We continue to do what we do right across Government in order to make sure we function effectively as a Government and I’m looking forward to being part of that.”

09:32 AM

Liz Truss set to arrive back in UK

Liz Truss will arrive back in London this morning following her trip to the United Nation's General Assembly in New York where she vowed that "desperate" Vladimir Putin will be defeated in Ukraine.

The Prime Minister said that the world was witnessing a "decisive moment in the history of freedom" and that 2022 was "the story of freedom fighting back”.

Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, addresses the UN General Assembly in New York on September 21  - Stefan Rousseau/PA
Liz Truss, the Prime Minister, addresses the UN General Assembly in New York on September 21 - Stefan Rousseau/PA

Her speech followed a warning from Joe Biden to the Russian President that "nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought".

Putin, in a televised address to the Russian people, had earlier made a clear threat to use nuclear weapons.

Ms Truss is expected to lead a debate on the Ukraine war in the House of Commons this afternoon.

09:19 AM

What is happening with fracking?

The British Geological Survey was commissioned by the government to review the available evidence around fracking and the risk of it triggering seismic activity.

That review was submitted to ministers back in July and it has now finally been published today. However, it is not really a home run for either pro or anti-fracking groups because it essentially concludes that there is still significant uncertainty around the risks of fracking.

For example, it states "earthquake forecasting remains a scientific challenge for the geoscience community" and "the estimation of maximum magnitudes" of earthquakes before and during fracking "remains challenging".

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy responded to the report by saying it is "clear that we need more sites drilled in order to gather better data and improve the evidence base and we are aware that some developers are keen to assist with this process".

The decision to lift the ban on fracking, in place since 2019, will now allow those tests to proceed. BEIS said this will help to build "understanding of UK shale gas resources and how we can safely carry out shale gas extraction in the UK where there is local support".

09:05 AM

Ban on fracking lifted

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Business Secretary, said last night that the Government will push ahead to allow fracking, despite concern about earthquakes and backlash from countryside groups. (You can read the full story here).

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has now this morning confirmed the moratorium is being lifted on shale gas production in England.

BEIS said that amid the Ukraine war, it is "appropriate to pursue all means for increasing UK oil and gas production, including through new oil and gas licences and shale gas extraction".

Mr Rees-Mogg said in a press release: "To get there we will need to explore all avenues available to us through solar, wind, oil and gas production - so it’s right that we’ve lifted the pause to realise any potential sources of domestic gas.

09:00 AM

Government 'unashamedly' pro-growth

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Chancellor, will deliver his mini-Budget in the House of Commons tomorrow.

It is being described as "mini" but based on what we already know will be announced - reversing the National Insurance hike and scrapping a corporation tax increase - it is likely to feel a lot like a normal Budget as Liz Truss sets out her priorities and tries to deliver on her pledge to boost economic growth.

Therese Coffey, the Deputy Prime Minister, was asked this morning how the new Government will be different on the economy to the previous government.

She told BBC Breakfast: "The Prime Minister and the Chancellor are unashamedly, as is this Government, pro-growth and we will be unlocking any regulations, supporting opportunities to grow our economy. in a much more accelerated way and of course the Chancellor will be speaking tomorrow.”

08:53 AM

Half of GP practices currently meet two week target

More than 50 per cent of GP practices already meet the Government's new target of offering patients an appointment within two weeks, Therese Coffey has said.

(Of course, that does mean that a significant percentage are not offering all patients an appointment within a fortnight which is fairly damning.)

Ms Coffey told Times Radio: "There is a variation right across the country. Just at the moment on the latest data I have... we can see that over half of practices managed to meet this fortnight target. That is why we want to make sure that we are levelling up the expectations and supporting practices to make changes."

08:47 AM

Naming and shaming could see patients ditching GPs

Therese Coffey's new "Plan for Patients” will also name and shame the GP practices with the longest waits for appointments, in a bid to drive up performance.

The Health Secretary suggested the data which will be published by the Government could prompt patients to ditch their current GP and move to a different one.

Asked whether GPs who underperformed would face sanctions, Ms Coffey told LBC Radio: “Dare I say it… one of the points about also opening up and publishing data by practice is it may give some patients the opportunity to choose to use a different GP and to make that change as well.”

08:44 AM

'Certainly we want more GPs'

GPs have criticised Therese Coffey's appointments announcement, arguing that just because the Government is setting a new two-week target, that will not address the key issues of a lack of resources and high demand.

Ms Coffey told Times Radio that the Government does want to see more GPs recruited and that is part of a "longer-term plan that has already been set out".

She said: "Certainly we want more GPs, more clinicians, that’s all part of our longer-term plan that has already been set out.

“What I’m doing at the moment is really getting focus on ABCD – the ambulances, the backlogs, the care, the doctors and dentists – but I’m very conscious that nearly everybody who accesses the NHS does that through primary care, through their GP, and that’s why I’m putting so much emphasis in what I’m going to do to try and help patients get what they expect from GPs and to help GPs deliver that as well.”

08:40 AM

GP appointment pledge 'includes phone calls'

Therese Coffey is today unveiling the following new pledge: GPs in England will need to offer non-urgent appointments to patients within two weeks and urgent slots the same day.

You can read the full story on the "Plan for Patients" here.

However, when the Health Secretary talks about the Government wanting GPs to "see" their patients within two weeks that does not necessarily mean in-person appointments.

The Deputy Prime Minister conceded this morning that the two-week pledge will also include telephone and video consultations.

Asked what she meant by being seen by a GP, Ms Coffey told LBC Radio: “Well, I think that is open to the relationship between the GP and the patient. I know that throughout the pandemic there has been a variety of ways that people have interacted with seeing their GP.”

Asked if it could specifically include a phone call, she said: "I am not going to be overly prescriptive. I know that some people enjoy just having a phone call but may need to go in and see the doctor. I know that other patients are very keen in that regard.”

08:35 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.

There is a busy day ahead in Westminster, with Liz Truss arriving back from her trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The Prime Minister is expected to open a debate in the House of Commons this afternoon on the situation in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Therese Coffey, the Health Secretary, is unveiling the Government's plan to improve the NHS as Westminster also prepares for the mini-Budget tomorrow.

I will be on hand to guide you through the key developments.