National Insurance rise is a "tax on jobs"

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for the Government’s planned increases in National Insurance to be reversed, calling them a “tax on jobs” which will damage the recovery.

Mr Herbert was speaking on Radio 4's ‘Any Questions' programme on Friday evening (2 April), broadcast from Holsworthy in Devon.

One of the questions put to the panel was: "Should we believe the captains of industry and retail or Lord Mandelson?"

In response, Mr Herbert commented: "We've got the highest annual deficit in this country since the war.  The Government thinks the way to deal with this is to put up National Insurance, after the election of course. 

"But National Insurance is a tax on jobs.  It's an insurance premium that will be paid for by employers as well as individual employees.  That's why business is so concerned by this.  We think that this increase will damage the recovery.  That's why we think it should be avoided."

Mr Herbert accused the Government of wasting "industrial sums of money" and of opting to put up taxes on working people rather than get the deficit under control.

The MP said that the Conservatives had identified £6 billion of savings and that the Government's own advisors had agreed that this was fully achievable. 

He continued: "It's less than 1 per cent of Government spending.  What business faced with difficulty would not be able to identify £1 of savings in every £100 that it is spending?  Of course these savings can be identified because Government is wasting a lot of money.

"Look at the department that I shadow - Defra.  8,000 people work for Defra.  28,000 people work for the quangos under Defra.  One of those quangos just last year was advertising for Health Walks Delivery Officers on a salary of £32,000 a year.  Do we need positions like this?"

Responding to other questions from the audience, Mr Herbert said there had been a breakdown in confidence between the Home Secretary and the Drugs Advisory Council.  He said it was right that ministers should make the final decisions on drug classification, having listened carefully to the scientific advisors, but that they should also be able to implement a temporary ban on new drugs while scientists investigate the threat they pose to the public.

Following a call for the decriminalisation of drugs from another panellist, Nigel Farage of UKIP, Mr Herbert said: "Nigel [Farage] said that the big problem with drugs is that they are illegal.  No, that is not the problem.  The big problem with drugs is that they can be highly addictive, dangerous, wreck lives and kill people.  And it is a counsel of despair to say that instead of enforcing the law as we could do and instead of treating people better, we should just give up and decriminalise drugs altogether.  I think that is frankly a nonsense and I'm astonished that a political party should be advocating that."

In response to a question about immigration, Mr Herbert said that the current level of net migration was not sustainable and that a Conservative government would reduce the numbers from "hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands" each year.  He argued for an annual cap that takes into account the needs of businesses and the economy but also the impact on public services.

Mr Herbert reaffirmed the Conservative Party's commitment to allow a free vote on a repeal of the Hunting Act, saying that the debate was not about whether hunting is right or wrong but whether we should keep an "unworkable" law.  He argued that these matters were best left "for responsible individuals to decide."

The final question for the panel was: "It is suggested that daylight saving be adopted again, putting clocks two hours ahead of GMT in summer and one hour in winter.  Does the panel think this is a good idea?"

Mr Herbert responded: "Well I think it's worth looking at but at the end of the day you don't actually get any more light.  You just decide what hours of the day it's going to be light in.  So, sure, you get lighter evenings but it's much darker in the mornings.  In the north, that is an issue, particularly for the farming communities and others.

"I once fought a seat up in the North of England and I remember talking to a guy who had a garden that crossed the border and we were wondering whether Scotland would agree.  Perhaps Alex Salmond and others would disagree to this, in which case the guy would have to change his watch every time he went to the bottom of the garden.  These things are worth looking at, but you're not going to be getting any more light."

Nick Herbert, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was joined on the panel by Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, Liberal Democrat MP Susan Kramer and UKIP MEP Nigel Farage.

'Any Questions' is broadcast live on Friday evenings and repeated at lunchtime on Saturdays.  Panellists are not told in advance what the questions will be.



Notes for Editors

1. To listen to the ‘Any Questions' programme, visit

Christopher N Howarth