The first person to raise the fact that a proposed hike in National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed breached a Tory manifesto commitment was the BBC’s political editor, Philip Hammond has said.
Hammond announced on Wednesday morning that the tax hike would not go ahead after it provoked widespread outrage and concern, particularly among backbench Tory MPs.
The Chancellor set out his reasons for the Budget U-turn in a statement to MPs in the Commons.
Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond asked Mr Hammond whether it had been him or Theresa May who first realised the plans contradicted their own manifesto pledge not to increase NICs. The 2015 Conservative Party manifesto ran to 85 pages.
Hammond replied: “Since you asked me the question who first raised the issue of the manifesto, I think, credit where credit is due, I think it was actually Laura Kuenssberg on the BBC, shortly after I said it in the Budget speech.”
Senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper prompted widespread laughter when she asked Mr Hammond whether nobody in Downing Street realised the potential issue.
She said: “Can I just confirm the slightly astonishing thing that the Chancellor just said a few moments ago, that the first person to raise with him the Tory manifesto was the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg?
“Could he confirm that, in fact, nobody in Number 10 and nobody in Number 11 actually checked the Conservative manifesto before he wrote the Budget?”
Hammond replied: “Let me be clear, I didn’t say that, let me be clear: I think Laura Kuenssberg was the first person after I spoke to raise the issue outside.”
John Toner, National Union of Journalists freelance organiser, said: “Having announced an iniquitous increase, Philip Hammond has got it right at the second attempt. This is a huge relief for NUJ freelances and, indeed, for all self-employed people in the UK. It seems clear that his boss, the Prime Minister, has had to pull him into line. Clearly, this lady is for turning.”