Boris Johnson’s claims that his plans for the National Insurance threshold will leave low-paid workers £500 a year better off have been picked apart in front of a hapless minister.
While campaigning, the prime minister announced that he would lift the NI contribution threshold from £8,628 to £9,500 in a move he claimed would immediately save the lowest-paid workers £500 a year.
“We think this is the moment to help people with the cost of living and to do more to help people on low incomes with the cost of living, to put more money into their pockets,” he said.
The problem was, as BBC’s Andrew Neil pointed out, is: “It’s not true, is it?”
Neil said that Institute for Fiscal Studies figures show that the real saving is about £85 per person, and that the claimed £500 saving would only come in once the threshold was raised to £12,500.
"Sounds good, but there's a problem, it's not true is it?"@afneil asks Conservative Brandon Lewis about the national insurance change details announced by Boris Johnson#AndrewNeilShow— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 20, 2019
Election updates: https://t.co/sHEvLuqd4T pic.twitter.com/YrzJLe7BXu
Confronted with this on Neil’s show, security minister Brandon Lewis attempted to explain that the £500 saving was the “ambition”, “in due course”.
But he was left squirming after Neil read Johnson’s exact quote back to him.
Lewis said he had not heard the specific claim the prime minister had made when Neil confronted him with it.
The NI threshold policy is not the first inflated promise from Johnson’s campaign that has collapsed under scrutiny.
The prime minister continues to claim that his government is building 40 new hospitals when in fact it has committed the funds for six, with uncosted ambitions for the rest over the next 10 years.
WATCH: Tory candidate stumbles after being asked about Boris Johnson’s ‘lie’ over 40 new hospitalsCommenting on the National Insurance policy, Institute for Fiscal Studies research associate Xiaowei Xu told the Press Association that raising NI thresholds was an “extremely blunt instrument” for helping the low paid.
“Less than 10% of the total gains from raising NICs thresholds accrue to the poorest fifth of working households,” he said.
“The government could target low-earning families much more effectively by raising in-work benefits, which would deliver far higher benefits to the lowest-paid for a fraction of the cost.”