- House of Commons
MANCHESTER – A Conservative minister was tonight forced to defend comments describing taxpayer-funded healthcare as a potential “Ponzi scheme” that is “about to collapse.”
Justice Minister Philip Lee made the controversial comments at a fringe event at Conservative party conference.
Lee, who is a trained doctor, was speaking at a Social Market Foundation event on Monday.
He appeared to suggest that young people may no longer have access to the NHS in their later years.
His comments were subsequently widely shared on Twitter.
Justice minister (and GP) Philip Lee has called NHS and state pensions “a Ponzi scheme that’s about to collapse”. Bold, minister.
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) October 2, 2017
Appears someone is very cross with Philip “ponzi scheme” Lee. Who could that be? pic.twitter.com/VFORjOHHBk
— Harry Cole (@MrHarryCole) October 2, 2017
Speaking to Business Insider following the fringe event, Lee said his comments about the NHS, which can be read in full here, had been “taken out of context” but insisted he stood by his full remarks.
Lee told BI that: “I made the point that there is a social contract in play and people in work are paying in tax so we have healthcare when we need it, which is in great measure when we are much older, and it’s essentially like a Ponzi scheme in which you pay in and get out.”
He added that: “I’ve seen the tweets. The problem with Twitter is there is not much space for context. That’s what I said. It’s on record what I said and I stand by it. It’s accurate.”
He also denied suggesting that the NHS was about to collapse.
“Parties of all colours have supported the NHS and the Conservatives will continue to do so,” he told BI.
“My concern in that context was young people’s confidence in it collapsing.”