I do propose something radical, but in completely the opposite direction, because I believe that national insurance is an incredibly good thing. I always listen to the hon. Lady with great respect, but let me argue the case for national insurance, and she may disagree with me by way of intervention or otherwise.
We have allowed national insurance to become less relevant, with the exception of the various eligibilities I mentioned. As a result, it has come to be viewed by Her Majesty’s Treasury as just another form of raising funds. There was a proposal for a consultation on merging income tax and national insurance. I would vehemently oppose that, because my perception is that our constituents still, understandably, see national insurance as something different from income tax in being their contribution to the NHS, pensions, and welfare. Indeed, about £60 billion a year of the national insurance money that is raised, although this is a bit of a fiscal fiction, still goes towards the NHS. That is far less than we spend on the NHS, but it is still there.
The notion that, as I contend, our constituents see national insurance differently from income tax was particularly evident when Gordon Brown raised national insurance in order to put additional money into the NHS. He rightly viewed that as the best way of raising additional money for the NHS because it was more acceptable than putting a couple of pence on income tax. The best way—I think the only way, but a commission would need to be very broad-minded in its views—to ensure that we can finance the NHS and social care properly in the long term is through progressive, income-based national insurance with a wider base, as Kate Barker said, whereby by it does not stop when people retire and does not to stop at the upper national insurance limit, as it does at the moment at only 1% over it. Broadening the base of national insurance should make it possible to keep the percentage rate reasonable for all while paying for the services needed.
I welcome this motion and the proposal for cross-party work, whether through a commission or whatever, but I would plead that it be fairly focused. It should not cover ground on the details of healthcare that has been well covered elsewhere—probably better than we could cover it—but it should look at integration and, most important of all, future finance for the next 20 or 30 years.