- Jack Taylor / Stringer
- NHS head to call on government to fulfill Brexit campaign promise to spend more money on the NHS. “Democracy will not be strengthened” if the pledge is not met, Simon Stevens will say.
LONDON – The Brexit campaign’s promise that leaving the European Union will mean more funding for the NHS must be honoured or people will lose trust in politics, the head of NHS England is set to say today.
Simon Stevens will in a speech on Wednesday reference Vote Leave’s contentious claim that Brexit will give the UK government an extra £350 million a week to spend on areas like the NHS.
Vote Leave was the official pro-Brexit group and was supported by various MPs including current Boris Johnson. The foreign secretary was pictured in front of a Vote Leave bus with a message emblazoned on it reading: “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.”
NHS head Stevens will say “democracy will not be strengthened” if the government doesn’t commit more money to the NHS in its upcoming budget as Britain prepares to depart the EU.
“The NHS wasn’t on the ballot paper, but it was on the Battle Bus. Vote Leave for a better-funded health service – £350 million a week,” he is set to say.
“Rather than our criticising these clear Brexit funding commitments to NHS patients – promises entered into by Cabinet ministers and by MPs – the public want to see them honoured.
“By the end of the NHS’s next financial year – March 2019 – the United Kingdom will have left the European Union.
“Trust in democratic politics will not be strengthened if anyone now tries to argue: ‘You voted Brexit, partly for a better-funded health service. But precisely because of Brexit, you now can’t have one’.”
He’ll argue that insufficient funding for the NHS over recent years was one of the reasons 52% of British people voted for Brexit last year.
“A modern NHS is itself part of the practical answer to the deep social concerns that gave rise to Brexit.
“At a time of national division, an NHS that brings us together. An institution that tops the list of what people say makes them proudest to be British. Ahead of the army, the monarchy or the BBC. Unifying young and old, town and country, the struggling and the better off.”
Brexit impact assessments delayed
Meanwhile, the government has announced that it will be at least another three weeks until analysis on how Brexit could impact vital aspects of Britain’s economy will be published.
MPs last week passed a motion spearheaded by Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, calling on the government to release impact assessments covering 58 sectors of the economy.
Brexit minister Steve Baker told Parliament on Tuesday that the assessments were not yet ready and would not be published for several weeks.
Conservative backbencher Anna Soubry described the delay as a “gross contempt” of Parliament, adding: “The government was specifically asked, if it wasn’t going to vote against the motion, then what was its problem? Disclose this material, and disclose it properly and quickly.”
Starmer told Business Insider last week that the government’s reluctance to publish the analysis was an affront to “transparency and accountability.”