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Rishi Sunak promises lower immigration and tax cuts in Tory manifesto

By PA News

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Rishi Sunak has set out plans for a 2p national insurance cut in a multibillion-pound gamble to get the Tory General Election campaign back on track.

Launching the Conservative manifesto at the Silverstone motor racing circuit, the Prime Minister positioned himself as the heir to Margaret Thatcher with tax-cutting promises as he sought to overturn Labour’s poll lead which has remained stubbornly at around 20 points.

The Prime Minister said the Tories are offering “lower immigration, lower taxes and protected pensions” as part of a “secure future”.

Sir Keir Starmer said the money is not there to pay for Mr Sunak’s pledges, warning it is a “recipe for five more years of chaos” under the Conservatives.

The Tories reduced employees’ national insurance from 10% to 8% in the March budget, following a similar cut in autumn 2023, at an annual cost of almost £10 billion by 2028-29.

The manifesto commits to a third 2p reduction as part of a drive to eliminate national insurance altogether to end the double taxation on workers, who are already liable for income tax.

The Tories also promised to abolish the main rate of self-employed national insurance entirely by the end of the Parliament.

The manifesto commits to cutting employee national insurance to 6% by April 2027 at an estimated cost of £10.3 billion in 2029-30.

On top of the already implemented cuts, the manifesto said it would amount to a total tax reduction of £1,350 for the average worker on £35,000.

The party also confirmed its pledge not to increase income tax or VAT rates.

In total, the package of employee and self-employed national insurance cuts – combined with the previously announced “triple lock plus” tax break for pensioners, child benefit changes, stamp duty and capital gains tax measures – would amount to a £17.2 billion annual cost to the Exchequer by 2029-30.

Mr Sunak said it would be paid for by curbing the “unsustainable” rise in welfare.

In his launch speech, Mr Sunak committed to “halve migration as we have halved inflation and then reduce it every single year”.

The manifesto commits to require migrants to undergo a health check in advance of coming to the UK – with the prospect of paying a higher rate of the immigration health surcharge or forcing them to purchase insurance if they are “likely to be a burden on the NHS”.

It confirmed plans for a “binding, legal cap” on work and family visas which would “fall every year of the next Parliament and cannot be breached”.

The document stops short of saying the UK could leave the European Convention on Human Rights, as some on the Tory right, including former home secretary Suella Braverman, have called for.

The convention, and the Strasbourg court which rules on it, have been seen as a stumbling block in the effort to put asylum seekers on flights to Rwanda, part of the plan to deter small boat crossings of the English Channel.

The manifesto said “We will run a relentless, continual process of permanently removing illegal migrants to Rwanda with a regular rhythm of flights every month, starting this July, until the boats are stopped.

“If we are forced to choose between our security and the jurisdiction of a foreign court, including the ECHR, we will always choose our security.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The Prime Minister has acknowledged it has become harder for people to own their first home under the Conservatives, but he promised a package of measures to get people on the property ladder.

That includes a commitment to build 1.6 million new homes if elected by speeding up planning on brownfield land in inner cities and “scrapping defective EU laws”.

Mr Sunak has endured a torrid few days following his decision to leave the 80th anniversary of D-Day commemorations before the main international ceremony.

He is also battling to turn around the fortunes of a party which polls have suggested is heading for a very heavy defeat.

The Prime Minister said he is not “blind to the fact that people are frustrated with our party and frustrated with me” and acknowledged “we have not got everything right”.

But he said the Conservatives are the only party “with the big ideas to make our country a better place to live”.

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