James has written setting out his views on the new Health and Social Care Levy:
"With the return of Parliament, big decisions were taken to help deal with the massive impact that the pandemic has had on the NHS as well as to finally address the need for reform of adult social care.
Over the last 18 months there have been 1,696 Covid admissions to QEH, part of half a million Covid-19 patients treated in hospitals nationally. This has put immense strain on the NHS and waiting times for non-Covid treatment. Ninety per cent of people were waiting fewer than 25 weeks before the pandemic compared to 44 weeks now. Today 5.5 million people are waiting for treatment with predictions this could reach 13 million.
Helping the NHS to recover and address that backlog must be the priority. Given the scale of the challenge, there is a need for significant additional resources. At the same time, the pandemic has highlighted the long-term issues with adult social care that need to be resolved. Successive governments have ducked taking the difficult decisions that are needed but the pandemic means now we must confront them.
That’s why the Prime Minister announced a new Health and Social Care PACKAGE to provide £12 billion a year to tackle the backlog, reform social care, and bring the health and social care system together on a sustainable footing.
This £36 billion package will be funded by National Insurance Contributions increasing by 1.25 per cent from April 2022 paid by employers, employees and the self-employed – including those working over the state pension age. To help ensure that everyone pays their fair share, there is an equivalent increase in dividend tax rates.
Over the next three years, this will fund the biggest catch-up programme in NHS history, providing an extra 9 million checks, scans, and operations; and increase NHS capacity to 110 per cent of its pre-pandemic levels by 2023-24.
On social care, the plans will protect individuals and families against unpredictable and potentially catastrophic care costs. From October 2023, a lifetime cap on personal care costs of £86,000 will be introduced. Care costs will be covered for people with assets below £20,000 – up from £14,000 today. The plans also increasing the threshold above which the state stops support from £23,500 to £100,000, four times the level it is now, meaning anyone with assets between £20,000 to £100,000 will receive help with costs, meaning thousands more people will get help with their care costs.
Fixing social care is not just about money. The system needs urgent reform and proposals will now be developed with care users, social care sector, local authorities, the NHS, and others to offer choice, and independence and better integrated care. This includes investing in the Disability Facilities Grant and supported housing to allow people to live independently at home. At least £500 million will be invested to develop and support the social care workforce.
Having made the very difficult decision to raise taxes, people have asked why raise NICs rather than other taxes. Unlike Income Tax and VAT, an increase in NICs ensures business will contribute alongside employees and the self-employed. It means that those who earn more, pay more - the top 14 per cent of taxpayers will pay around half the revenue, and most small businesses won’t be affected at all.
No Conservative government ever wants to raise taxes. When I was elected I did not expect to be asked to support tax increases. But we have experienced a global pandemic and having spent more than £400 billion to support lives and livelihoods it would be irresponsible to borrow more to fund permanent increases to tackle these issues.
Before the vote, I spoke to the Health and Social Care Secretary and the Care Minister about the importance of getting value for money and clear outcomes that the NHS will be held accountable for delivering. I raised the need for fair funding and local authorities to benefit from the new spending; the care needs of working age people; wider reforms; workforce issues; as well unpaid carers.
After reflecting on the issues, I supported the levy on that basis that it must not only help the NHS recover but deliver reform to provide an affordable solution to social care and a health and care system fit for the future. I will continue to scrutinise the NHS and ministers to make sure that this new burden results in tackling the backlog and improving social care."