As hon. Members will know, although national insurance contributions are primarily used to fund state pensions, a proportion of NICs is already allocated directly to the NHS, but beyond that, the Government do not have any plans to ring-fence national insurance contributions to fund health and social care.
I thank the Financial Secretary for that answer, but with a view to the long-term sustainable financing of health and social care, will she look into this as a means of depoliticising the debate and ensuring long-term funding for health and social care not just for today, but for decades to come?
I understand my hon. Friend’s core point. The Government have taken action to ensure that the NHS has the funding it needs by increasing its annual budget by £10 billion above inflation by 2020-21. We are mindful of the long-term challenges. The issues were recently highlighted by the Office for Budget Responsibility, which laid them out quite starkly in its latest fiscal sustainability report. On depoliticising the debate, I would say that backing the NHS’s own plan for its own future in the way we have done is the best way of doing that.
Back in 2010, to meet the rising costs of social care I proposed a compulsory care levy on all estates. From memory, the Conservatives produced an election poster with gravestones on it and called it a death tax. I read in The Times today that Ministers are now considering exactly the same proposal. Can this possibly be true?
There is, however, an emerging consensus that we need to better integrate our social care and health system. We already have the better care fund and the Chancellor’s prudent management of the economy, but if he has any wriggle room in the forthcoming Budget may I ask him whether we can have some transitional relief for social care until we can work out the best model?
The Government have been very clear on a number of occasions that we recognise the pressures in the system and additional money has been made available through the social care precept. We are well aware of the pressures in the system and, as my right hon. Friend says, the long-term need for more integration—the Chief Secretary has already referred to the better care fund—but his point is well made.
How can it be right that the local authorities under the most pressure in terms of social care can raise the least amount through the council tax precept, when that precept is the basis of the Government’s social care policy? East Riding Council, next to my own, can raise 56% more than Hull even though it has less demand.