Sunak promises £17bn in tax cuts

Rishi Sunak unveiled an election manifesto packed with £17 billion of tax cuts on Tuesday, including the abolition of National Insurance for almost every self-employed worker.

Speaking at the Silverstone race course, the Prime Minister said the document proved the Tories still had “bold” ideas for change after 14 years in government.

The manifesto proposal to scrap the main rate of National Insurance for the self-employed would benefit around four million people.

There were also promises to reduce the main rate of National Insurance by 2p, abolish stamp duty for most first time-buyers and protect the state pension from being taxed.

The policies – many of which had been announced in the last fortnight – would be funded by what the Tories said was £12 billion of welfare reform savings, plus a tax avoidance crackdown.

The Prime Minister said: “We Conservatives will always stand for our values: for aspiration, for freedom, for opportunity, for security.

“Your Conservative MP will deliver lower taxes, lower immigration, protected pensions and a sensible approach to net zero.

“Now our country wants a clear plan, and bold action. Our country needs a secure future, and it is this Conservative manifesto that will deliver it.”

He also issued a stark warning about the possibility of Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, taking office for not just one five-year term but potentially another.

Mr Sunak looked to be in a bouyant mood as he took to the stage at Silverstone
Mr Sunak looked to be in a bouyant mood as he took to the stage at Silverstone - Andrew Fox
Mr Sunak's wife Akshata Murty applauded her husband alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary James Cleverly
Mr Sunak's wife Akshata Murty applauded her husband alongside Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Home Secretary James Cleverly - Victoria Jones/Shutterstock

Mr Sunak said of Labour’s plans to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote: “If Labour win this time, they’ll change the rules so that they are in power for a very long time.”

In a message to wavering voters he said: “All a vote for Reform or the Liberal Democrats does is allow Labour to do whatever they want to our country.

“Do not forget that Keir Starmer is asking you to hand him a blank cheque, when he hasn’t said what he’ll buy with it or how much it’s going to cost you.”

The manifesto launch is considered one of the last major moments in the campaign for the Tories to change the dynamics of the race and somehow trigger a resurgence in the opinion polls.

A new YouGov poll underscored the challenge, putting Reform, Nigel Farage’s party, on 17 per cent, just one point behind the Tories on 18 per cent. Labour was on 38 per cent.

Labour accused Mr Sunak of being a Liz Truss “tribute act”, claiming the Tories had inflated the estimated savings from their welfare reforms and were being economically reckless.

However, Labour were accused of confusing “fact and fiction” when Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, claimed that Mr Sunak’s plans would cause the average mortgage to rise by £4,800 over the next parliament.

The Tories have repeatedly tried to draw a line between themselves and Labour on the issue of cutting taxes and have claimed that their rival’s spending plans would force them to put up taxes by £2,000 for every working household. Labour called the figure a “lie”.

The 76-page manifesto outlines the plan to scrap the main rate of National Insurance paid by the self-employed.

It means the 6 per cent rate on earnings between £12,570 and £50,270 would be abolished if the Tories are re-elected. The 2 per cent rate on earnings above £50,270 would remain in place.

The Tories estimated the change, combined with the cut from 9 per cent to 6 per cent in the main rate announced in the spring, would save the average worker affected around £1,500 a year.

Mr Sunak called self-employed workers “the risk takers, the people who graft hard to make a living, who get our economy growing. They embody that most Conservative of values: the desire to build something, to create wealth and opportunity.”

Tory sources defended not abolishing the higher rate for the self-employed, saying: “We are only going to do this in a sensible and sustainable way.”

The decision not to promise a reduction in income tax or inheritance tax was justified by saying that prioritisation was needed and a sizeable tax cut for workers was the focus.

There was a blow for the Tory Right when Mr Sunak decided not to promise to pull the UK out of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) if re-elected.

Mr Sunak has been urged to leave the ECHR by some in his party as part of his effort to end small boat crossings carrying migrants. His manifesto adopted a more nuanced ECHR position, leaving all options open if judges block Rwanda deportation flights.

The manifesto also included a promise not to bring in any new green levies and to change the law to ban mobile phones from classrooms.

It also says that China will be declared a security risk on a par with Russia and Iran and that the Tories would not introduce any new restrictions on fox hunting after Labour said it would enforce a total ban if it wins the election.

Cabinet ministers publicly praised the manifesto, but some Tory candidates doubted it was a game-changer. One told The Telegraph: “This will make no difference whatsoever to the election campaign.”

Mr Sunak used his speech to issue a plea to voters considering backing Labour, asking whether they really had enough detail about the Opposition’s plan for office.

He said: “If you don’t know what Labour will do, don’t vote for it. If you’re concerned about what Starmer isn’t telling you, don’t vote for him.”

Labour will launch its own manifesto on Thursday. There are less than four weeks left before voters head to the polls on July 4.