The Prime Minister has defended the decision to hike up national insurance for millions of workers.

Today, National Insurance contributions will increase by 1.25 percentage points, breaking a manifesto promise “not to raise the rates of income tax, national insurance or VAT”.

From April 2023 onwards, the NI rate will decrease back to the 2021-22 level, with a new 1.25% health and social care levy legally introduced.

The UK Government predicts that the tax rise will raise £39 billion over the next three years to help reduce the Covid-induced NHS backlog and later reform adult social care for the long-term.

Boris Johnson said: “We must be there for our NHS in the same way that it is there for us.

“Covid led to the longest waiting lists we’ve ever seen, so we will deliver millions more scans, checks and operations in the biggest catch-up programme in the NHS’ history.

“We know this won’t be a quick fix, and we know that we can’t fix waiting lists without fixing social care.

“Our reforms will end the cruel lottery of spiralling and unpredictable care costs once and for all and bring the NHS and social care closer together.

“The levy is the necessary, fair and responsible next step, providing our health and care system with the long term funding it needs as we recover from the pandemic.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the levy would also be used to cap the cost of care so “people no longer live in fear of losing everything”.