Tory manifesto promises ‘cost neutral’ tax freeze as Boris Johnson launches election plan

Triple tax freeze promise will mean no rise in rates of income tax, VAT or national insurance under Tory government, promises PM

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 23 November 2019 23:00 GMT
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Boris Johnson challenged by factory worker on visit: 'Are these tax cuts for people like you or people like me?'

Boris Johnson has put tax at the heart of the general election battle with a pledge that rates of income tax, VAT and national insurance will not rise in the course of a Conservative government.

His “triple tax lock” promise will form the centrepiece of the Tory manifesto, launched on Sunday, in a bid to draw a clear dividing line with Jeremy Corbyn’s offer of £83bn tax rises on the richest 5 per cent of earners and corporations.

Tory sources denied that the move would force Mr Johnson into massive borrowing to fund his lavish plans for cash injections into the NHS, police and infrastructure, insisting that their programme was “cost-neutral” and met the fiscal rule not to borrow to pay for day-to-day spending.

But the pledge will tie the hands of Conservative chancellors for as long as five years, cutting the Treasury off from significant sources of funding over a period when many economists expect revenues to contract because of the impact of Brexit and uncertainty over a potential no-deal departure without a trade agreement with the EU at the end of 2020.

Also in the manifesto is a £1bn pledge for primary schools to develop and expand after-school and holiday childcare.

And Mr Johnson will announce a ban on the export of plastic waste to poorer countries, in a bid to stem the problem of rubbish sent abroad for recycling being dumped on arrival.

The manifesto, entitled Get Brexit Done, Unleash Britain’s Potential, also includes assurances to older voters that the Tories will keep the pension triple lock, winter fuel payment and older person’s bus pass.

And it promises to maintain the existing energy price cap, as well as pumping £6.3bn into energy efficiency measures to cut fuel bills for 2.2 million households.

The maintenance of the pension lock – which guarantees an annual rise in line with the highest of CPI inflation, wage growth or 2.5 per cent – will ensure that the full state pension will be at least £1,000 higher in cash terms by the end of a five-year parliament.

The manifesto will also confirm next year’s rise to £9,500 in the threshold for paying national insurance inadvertently announced by the PM during a visit to the northeast during the week, worth nearly £100 a year to taxpayers.

And it restates Mr Johnson’s ambition for this to rise to £12,500 over an unspecified timeframe.

There was no mention in extracts of the manifesto released ahead of its launch in the West Midlands of any increase in the threshold for the 40p upper rate of income tax, floated by Mr Johnson during the Tory leadership race.

And there was no guarantee that thresholds for income tax and NICs would be upgraded in line with inflation over the course of the parliament, leaving open the possibility of increased payments through the phenomenon of “fiscal drag”.

Mr Johnson said the Tory package would “get Brexit done and allow us to move on and unleash the potential of the whole country”.

He added: “Our positive One Nation agenda will unite this great country not just for Christmas but for years to come.

“With new policies to cut the cost of living, support our fantastic NHS staff, help parents juggling childcare and work, and invest in a massive programme of infrastructure across the whole country – we are offering hope and optimism where the Labour party only offer hate and division.”

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrats announced plans to inject a further £7bn into school buildings and repairs over the coming five years to keep pace with rising pupil numbers.

Lib Dem education spokeswoman Layla Moran said: “Our schools should be world-class, but years of under-investment and funding cuts have left our schools crumbling, with repairs being unaffordable. It is completely unacceptable that in the 21st century our children are being taught in Victorian conditions.

“Enough is enough. The Liberal Democrats would invest an extra £7bn over five years from our infrastructure budget for new school buildings.

“This is an addition to the £10bn for schools we have promised as well as hiring 20,000 more teachers. A vote for the Liberal Democrats in this election is a vote for ensuring a brighter future for our children.”

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