Rishi Sunak insists no cuts to state pension to fund national insurance ambition

Rishi Sunak has insisted the state pension would not be cut to fund his ambition to scrap national insurance contributions altogether.

The Prime Minister said Sir Keir Starmer should “stop scaremongering” after the Labour leader repeatedly pressed for details on how the move would be funded.

In the spring Budget, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced a 2p cut in national insurance and outlined a “long-term ambition” to abolish it altogether.

Elsewhere at PMQs, Sir Keir also welcomed Tory defector Dr Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich), who quit in anger over the Government’s handling of the NHS, to the Opposition benches.

Speaking with an eye on Thursday’s elections, Sir Keir said: “After nearly two decades as a Tory politician, and an NHS doctor, he’s concluded that if you care about the future of our country and our NHS that it’s time for change. It’s time for this changed Labour Party.”

He added: “When a lifelong Tory and doctor says that the only cure for the NHS is a Labour Government isn’t the time the Prime Minister admits he has utterly failed?”

Mr Sunak replied: “I’m glad to actually see (Dr Poulter). That’s because he recently pointed out that residents of his local Labour council are and I quote in his words, charged much more in council tax but in return receive lower quality services.

“He’s been wrong about some things recently but on that point, he’s absolutely right and this week, people everywhere should vote Conservative.”

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomes MP and psychiatrist Dr Dan Poulter to the Labour Party at The Francis Crick Institute in London
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer welcomes MP and psychiatrist Dr Dan Poulter to the Labour Party at The Francis Crick Institute in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“But it’s crystal clear, there’s one policy that’s going to give tax cuts for working Britain and it’s the Conservative Party.”

But Sir Keir asked: “Has he found the money to fund his £46 billion promise to abolish national insurance?

“Whenever he’s asked about the date of the election or people’s pensions, he acts as if answering straight forward questions is somehow beneath him.

“But pensioners and those who are planning their retirement deserve better than his contempt for their questions, because if £46 billion was cut from its funding, the value of the state pension would almost half.”

He added: “So I don’t apologise for asking on their behalf again, whether he will finally rule out cutting their state pension to fulfil the enormous blackhole in his spending plans.”

“But it’s Labour that always hits pensioners hard, it is his mentors Blair and Brown that broke their promises, raised pension taxes by £118 billion and delivered an insulting 75p rise in the state pension.”

Sir Keir questioned if Mr Sunak would rule out forcing people to delay their retirement to help fund the pledge, with Conservative peer Lord Frost previously suggesting the state pension age should be raised to 75.

Mr Sunak replied: “I’ve answered this multiple times to (Sir Keir), I’m happy to say it again. This is the party that has delivered and protected the triple lock.

“But I know, ultimately he is not worried about any of this because we all remember that he’s got his very own personal pension plan. I think we all remember it, indeed it comes with its very own special law.

“It was called the pension increase scheme for Keir Starmer QC, it’s literally one law for him and another one for everyone else.”

Rishi Sunak holds PM Connect in Essex
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a PM Connect at DHL London Gateway, Corringham, Essex (Frank Augstein/PA)

In his concluding remarks, Sir Keir said: “Is it any wonder that his MPs are following Tory voters in queuing up to dump his party.

“Even the mayors that he’s apparently pinning his political survival on don’t want to be seen anywhere near him because until he starts setting out how he’s paying for his fantasy economics, he’s got a completely unfunded £46 billion promise that puts people’s retirement at risk.

“How does it feel to be one day out from elections with the message ‘Vote Tory, risk your pension’?”

Mr Sunak replied: “Tomorrow voters will have a choice and it’ll be a choice between mayors like Andy Street and Ben Houchen who are delivering, or mayors like Sadiq Khan who just simply virtue-signal.”

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