MPs are returning to the House of Commons today following the summer recess. Here’s a look at some of the key topics that are likely to be debated and hit the headlines over the coming days…
Social Care and Taxation
Reports in recent days have suggested that the Government could soon announce a hike in taxation in order to better fund social care and help the NHS manage the current backlog that has worsened through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Exactly how taxes could rise is unknown and thought to still be under discussion, though a hike in National Insurance contributions is thought to be the most likely. These reports have caused anger, including amongst Conservative MPs. In the Conservative Party’s 2019 General Election Manifesto, Boris Johnson had committed to not lifting income tax, national insurance or VAT.
With the majority of COVID-19 restrictions having been lifted in the UK, news about the virus has gone rather quiet. However, while life is now a lot closer to how it was before the pandemic, many thousands of people are still contracting the virus each day, and tens of COVID-19 related deaths are also being recorded in the UK each day.
Some fear that a difficult winter could be ahead, with the potential for many more COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths than are currently being seen. Along with other seasonal illnesses, this could increase pressure on the NHS even further. There are key questions over how to roll out booster vaccinations, whether children should be vaccinated against the virus, and what should happen if a new variant emerged that caused case rates to reach new highs.
Even if cases of COVID-19 stagnate, there are huge questions about the future and what the new normal looks like, with lockdowns having changed how we all interact and live our lives. Even with restrictions dropped, many businesses and individuals will still be dealing with the financial consequences of the pandemic – and some are worried about the upcoming end to the furlough scheme, universal credit payments uplift and the ending of eviction protections that have existed through the pandemic.
While it may have been overtaken by other headlines recently, many questions remain unanswered about the situation in Afghanistan and what lies ahead for the future of the country under Taliban rule.
MPs saw their recess interrupted as Parliament was recalled for one day’s sitting to debate the Government’s response to the situation in Afghanistan. Since then, the UK has ended its evacuation operations in the country, though MPs are likely to still have questions over what happens next. Concerns had been raised that the advances made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years could be somewhat undone by the Taliban – there are also fears over the potential for terrorist activity both in the country directly and terrorists using Afghan soil as a base to target the West.
The Government faced criticism in August over its immediate response to the crisis – questions over this and what happens next are likely to be raised in the coming days.