Boris Johnson has secured MPs’ backing for his controversial £12bn tax hike to pay for health and social care despite seeing his Commons majority cut.
The House voted by 319 to 248 in favour of the 1.25 percentage point increase in national insurance contributions amid deep unhappiness among many Tory MPs.
It meant the Government’s working majority of more than 80 was reduced to 71, with a number of Conservatives apparently choosing to abstain while others made clear they were only voting with the greatest reluctance.
It reflected the concern within the Tory ranks that Johnson was not only abandoning a manifesto promise not to raise the main rates of taxes but that he was taking the tax burden to record peacetime levels.
Earlier on Wednesday, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford accused the Prime Minister during PMQs of seeking to impose a “regressive Tory poll tax” on millions of Scottish workers.
He also highlighted research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggesting that around two million families on low incomes could be set to pay an average of an extra £100 per year as a result of a rise in national insurance.
“This is a tax hike on the poor and on the young, Prime Minister, and you should be ashamed of yourself,” he told MPs.
“We now know the economic direction of this toxic Tory government. We’re going to see furlough scrapped, Universal Credit cut, more tax hikes for the low paid.
“Let us be in no doubt, this is the return of the Tories’ austerity agenda. It is austerity 2.0.”
The Prime Minister previously said the tax levy would see Scotland receive more than £1bn.
He responded to Blackford: “This is more cash for people in Scotland, it’s more investment for families in Scotland.
“It’s good for Scotland and good for the whole of the United Kingdom.”
Following the vote, the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor Alison Thewliss MP said: “The Tory government’s regressive tax increase will unfairly burden millions of Scottish families, young people, and the low paid, and leave them worse off.
“The move also risks Scotland being sold short and receiving less in return than the money taken from Scottish-based National Insurance payers.
“Everyone supports investing more money into our NHS but this tax rise is regressive and, coupled with the premature withdrawal of key Covid income support schemes and the scrapping of £20 UC uplift, signals yet another round of Tory austerity.
“At a time when we should be strengthening support and building a strong recovery from the pandemic, the Westminster Tory government is instead holding back a fair and equal recovery from the crisis.
“It’s beyond any doubt that the only way to protect Scotland from Tory cuts and regressive tax hikes is to become an independent country.”
However Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the SNP’s refusal to back the vote was “hypocritical”.
He said: “The nationalist hypocrisy of the SNP was on full show in this vote.
“Health services are in crisis, yet the SNP refused to back an extra £1.1bn of annual funding for Scotland’s NHS and social care services.
“SNP MPs voted against money that could be used to cut down the scandalous waiting times for ambulances, A&E, cancer treatment and in-person GP appointments.
“The SNP refused to welcome it but I’m sure patients and workers on the frontline of Scotland’s NHS and care system will be delighted to hear more funding is on the way.”