Tory minister: We should apologise to voters for breaking manifesto promise on National Insurance
A Conservative minister has said the Government should apologise to voters for breaking a manifesto pledge by putting up National Insurance contributions.
The comments by Wales minister and Tory whip Guto Bebb come despite Philip Hammond insisting his announcement did not breach the Tories' pre-election pledge not to put up tax.
He insisted that legislation brought in after the general election did not exempt so-called "Class 4" NICs from being put up, so the manifesto commitment had been met.
But speaking to the Welsh language BBC Radio Cymru, Mr Bebb said: "I believe we should apologise. I will apologise to every voter in Wales that read the Conservative manifesto in the 2015 election."
The Aberconwy MP's comments pile further pressure on the Chancellor and Theresa May to U-turn on the controversial policy, which will see nearly 2.5m people left paying £240 a year more in NICs.
Several Tory backbenchers - including former party leader Iain Duncan Smith - have called on the Government to think again.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister turned down four opportunities this morning to confirm that the changes will definitely happen, increasing speculation that a climbdown is in the offing.
"The point of this exercise is about restoring a sense of fairness," said the spokesman. "Self-employed workers are able to now have access to the full state pension - that makes them £1,800 a year better off.
"Having equalised the state pension system, it is right that the contributions that go towards that are equalised as well.
"We need to remind ourselves what this Budget is all about. It's building for the future, it's a Budget that invests in schools, skills, social care and business, and it addresses an issue of fairness around the system."
But Tory backbencher Stephen McPartland said the planned rise is "not acceptable" and looks like a broken promise.
He told the BBC's Daily Politics: "I think on this issue we need to get a U-turn and we need one quickly. I believe the National Insurance contributions changes are going to be put forward in a separate bill and that’s what we need to look at changing, but I think we need to keep the pressure up over the next few days so people understand this change is not acceptable, this change affects those ordinary working families who’ve taken the risk of setting up a small business, many of whom employ apprentices and are the backbone of our economy.
"It just makes them feel we’ve broken our promise. It’s not acceptable, it cannot be allowed to proceed."