Theresa May’s ‘Brexit dividend’ claim on NHS spending hike rubbished by senior Tory

THE claim by Theresa May that a "Brexit dividend" will help boost NHS funding by £600 million a week – more than was claimed by the Leave campaign during the 2016 referendum – has been denounced as "tosh" by a senior Tory MP.

Sarah Wollaston, the pro-EU Chairwoman of the Commons Health Committee, said she was sad to see the UK Government "slide to populist arguments" and accused the Prime Minister of treating the public “like fools".

The stark intervention came after Mrs May announced the NHS would receive an additional £20 billion a year in real terms funding by 2024, meaning a weekly increase of £384 million in real terms, and £600 million a week in cash terms compared to now.

Such a cash boost would, through the so-called Barnett Formula, mean a £1.8bn boost after five years for the Scottish Government, which could spend the money how it liked.

Ruth Davidson welcomed the cash boost, saying: “As we celebrate the fact that our NHS is 70 years young, it's important we look to how we deliver the sustainable health and social care communities across Scotland will require in the future.

"I believe the best days for our NHS are ahead of it. This financial commitment by the Conservatives will let our health care professionals work to build a stronger, safer, and better NHS for all of us,” said the Scottish Conservative leader.

Her colleague Miles Briggs, the Shadow Scottish Health Secretary, added: "Nicola Sturgeon must now make it clear that every penny of the extra cash she receives thanks to this UK Government action goes on health care here in Scotland.

"Too often in the past the SNP has failed to meet extra investment in the rest of the UK. The SNP must not be allowed to do that again. It is time for our NHS to come first," he added.

But following the PM’s remarks, Ms Wollaston tweeted: "The Brexit dividend tosh was expected but treats the public as fools. Sad to see Govt slide to populist arguments rather than evidence on such an important issue. This will make it harder to have a rational debate about the 'who & how' of funding & sharing this fairly."

Referring to controversial promises made by the Leave campaign during the referendum, Mrs May told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "Some people may remember seeing a figure on the side of a bus a while back of £350m a week in cash.

"Well, I can tell you what I am announcing will mean that in 2023-24, there will be about £600 million a week in cash, more in cash, going into the NHS."

The PM explained the money, which would not be used for social care, would amount to an increase of 3.4 per cent, and said the country would also have to "contribute a bit more" to health service funding.

This appeared to be a clear signal that a tax hike could be introduced to bolster the funding.

Asked where the non-"Brexit dividend" element of the funding would come, Mrs May said: "As a country we will be contributing more, a bit more, but also we will have that sum of money that is available from the European Union."

She made clear resources would be redirected from the more than £9 billion a year the UK currently paid into the EU.

But Government opponents responded by saying what was being offered was nowhere near enough to help the NHS recover from years of austerity.

Labour's John McDonnell said: "After eight years of Tory cuts and privatisation, the NHS and social care are in crisis.

"Today's announcement on funding is nowhere near good enough and the Prime Minister has confirmed there is no new money for social care.

"This falls far short of the four per cent that experts say the NHS needs, it is just a standstill, and the Tories are refusing to say where the money will come from.”

The Shadow Chancellor added: "You can't trust the Tories with the NHS."

His Labour colleague Emily Thornberry refused to say whether the Conservatives were offering more money for the NHS than Labour.

Appearing on The Marr Show, the Shadow Foreign Secretary was repeatedly pressed on the issue and said: "It goes hand in hand with social care, we have not heard anything about social care. For example, you were talking about spending an extra £2bn a year on social care, so if you add that on actually you may find that these raw figures don't quite paint the picture that you're saying.

"On top of that, as I said at the outset, let's see what they actually deliver, because, as those Tories who went in to see Theresa May in her office behind the Speaker's chair last week heard, she may promise one thing but the question is what is it she is going to deliver," added the London MP.



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