THE UK Government is planning to press ahead with a controversial tax rise despite the escalating cost of living crisis, Michael Gove has confirmed.

The Levelling Up Secretary said the Government would not “do away with” the planned 1.25 per cent rise in national insurance contributions (NICs) next month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure for Tory MPs to shelve the rise as families struggle with the worst inflation in decades and record surges in energy bills.

He is due to set out a spring statement mini-budget on March 23.

Asked on BBC’s Sunday Morning programme whether the Government was going to cut people’s taxes, Mr Give said: “No, what we have to do at the moment is to provide support in every way possible that is targeted.

“We have cut taxes by cutting council tax for people who are on the lower bands, we’re doing that deliberately in order to target support at those on lower incomes at a time when we know that they face considerable pressures.

“But behind your question may be a suggestion that we should do away with the national insurance increase. No, we’re not doing that.

“We need that national insurance increase in order to make sure that we can fund the NHS and social care to deal with the Covid backlog.”

Labour’s shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds said households were facing “the “worst collection of pressures” on living standards he had seen in his 12 years as an MP. 

He said “I cannot give you an historical parallel for the kind of squeeze the British public are already enduring and are about to endure.

“The first thing to say is I think clearly what is happening in Ukraine makes the pressures more acute, but we had a crisis before this began.”

Mr Reynolds said there needed to be a “much stronger response from the Chancellor” at the spring statement beyond the “buy now pay later” scheme to lower council tax contributions.

The SNP said the Tories must not “cynically hide behind Ukraine” to avoid addressing the cost of living crisis and there was “no excuse for inaction” from the Chancellor.

Glasgow MP Alison Thewliss said: “This Tory crisis has been a decade in the making, with rising costs compounded by damaging Westminster decisions over Brexit, Tory austerity cuts and a failure to invest in renewable energy, which has taken billions out of the economy, stagnated wages, decimated social security, and left the UK completely exposed.

“Rishi Sunak must not cynically use the war in Ukraine as cover for years of Tory failure. There is no excuse for inaction from the Chancellor when the majority of families face a devastating blow to their household incomes.

“Instead of preparing a list of excuses the Chancellor should be preparing a comprehensive package of support - converting the £200 energy loan into a more generous grant, scrapping the regressive National Insurance tax hike, reversing the £1040 cuts to Universal Credit, matching the Scottish Child Payment UK-wide, and introducing a Real Living Wage to boost incomes.

“With every day the UK government fails to use its reserved powers to tackle the cost of living, it is demonstrating that independence is the only way for Scotland to boost incomes and build a fairer society.”

Meanwhile Mr Sunak has urged British companies “to think very carefully” about making any investments in Russia which would support Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The Chancellor said there was “no case” for new investment in Russia and warned of further action to “inflict maximum economic pain”.

Major UK firms including BP, Shell and Centrica have already announced plans to cut ties with Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Sunak said: “I welcome commitments already made by a number of firms to divest from Russian assets - and I want to make it crystal clear that the Government supports further signals of intent. “I am urging firms to think very carefully about their investments in Russia and how they may aid the Putin regime - and I am also clear that there is no case for new investment in Russia.

“We must collectively go further in our mission to inflict maximum economic pain - and to stop further bloodshed.”