Labour challenges Sunak to explain how £46bn plan to axe national insurance would be funded – UK politics live | Politics

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China ‘obviously a security threat’, says Gillian Keegan, education secretary

Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, said this morning that China was “obviously a security threat” to the UK.

Speaking to Times Radio, she said:

As I’ve said before, I’m not in the diplomatic service or the Foreign Office but it is obviously a security threat.

We take all security threats seriously, whether that’s cyber security or other security threats.

This is significant because the government has been criticised for not formally describing China as a threat in security policy statements. That’s why Keegan stressed that she was not speaking on behalf of the Foreign Office; she was just giving a personal assessment.


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Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, was being interviewed by Kay Burley on Sky News this morning when he challenged Rishi Sunak to explain how he would fund his proposal to axe national insurance. (See 9.34am.) In an interview with Burley three weeks ago, Ashworth bet her £10 that the general election would be on 2 May. For an election on 2 May, parliament would have to be dissolving today.

This morning Ashworth acccepted he had lost, and he paid up, with the money going to a charity for the children of alcoholics. Burley asked him if he wanted to bet on an election in June, but Ashworth declined.

Labour suggests Rishi Sunak might have to means test pensions to fund £46bn national insurance cut

Good morning. The Commons rises for the Easter recess at the end of today, but before that happens Rishi Sunak has meetings with two of Westminster’s more high-profile bodies: cabinet, and the Commons liaison committee. Cabinet is no threat to Sunak, because the Tory MPs working hardest to force him out of of his job are on the backbenchers (which was not always the case with this predecessors. In theory the liasion committee – best thought of as 35 MPs who think they should be in cabinet – ought to pose more of a threat, and the 90-minute session at lunchtime is the best news prospect of the day. But this liaison committee is less ferocious than it has been in previous parliaments, and Sunak normally gets through it without being seriously rattled.

Sunak has been told that today’s hearing will include questioning on three topics – scrutiny of strategic thinking in government, economy and public services, and global issues – which in practice could mean more or less anything.

Ahead of the hearing the Labour party has sent out a list of 15 questions it thinks Sunak should answer. The most important was probably this one:

The chancellor told Conservative party members he plans to scrap national insurance in the next parliament. How does the government plan to pay for this projected cost of £46bn?

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, was doing the the media round for Labour today and he said this was a question Sunak had to address. On Sky News he suggested that Sunak’s plan could lead to the state pension being means tested, as a means of allowing the Tories to find the £46bn cost. He said:

[Sunak has] committed his party to a £46bn [tax cut] which either means more borrowing, putting up mortgages, or it means a new tax rise on pensioners. Or it severs the link between contribution and the state pension, it is threatens the state pension in the future. Silver Voices, an organisation who campaigns for pensioners, in the Daily Express a couple of weeks ago said this could mean to the means testing of the state pension. Rishi Sunak has got to answer questions on his £46bn bombshell.

It’s not often that you hear a Labour frontbencher quoting the Daily Express approvingly, but Ashworth was referring to this article, and this quote.

Silver Voices director Dennis Reed said that although state pensions are not reliant on the amount of NICs collected by the government, abolishing it could lead to problems.

He said: “When national insurance was set up, it was intended to fund the state pension and benefits.

“It has become muddled up over successive governments.

“But if there is no national insurance at all it opens up the doors to means testing of the state pension in future.

“If everything comes from the taxman it becomes a benefit rather than the deferred payment it is.”

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

1pm: Rishi Sunak gives evidence to the Commons liaison committee.

3pm: Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, and Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, are due to make an announcement about crime policy.

3.15pm: Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, gives evidence to the Commons defence committee.

If you want to contact me, do use the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.


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