Jeremy Hunt has admitted any so-called Brexit dividend, if it materialises, would not be “anything like enough” to fund the government’s proposed increase in NHS funding.
The health secretary confirmed on Monday morning this meant taxes would be increased to pay for the pledge.
Theresa May is set to announce the NHS will receive an additional £20bn a year, or £384 million-a-week, in real terms funding by 2024.
But Downing Street’s suggestion the extra funds can come from money saved by not having to contribute to the EU budget has been rubbished by experts and some of her own MPs.
Hunt said this morning the government would not set out precisely how the extra money would be found until the Budget in the autumn.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, the health secretary said there would be “three sources” of money.
“One of them is, as you were talking about earlier in the show is the fact that we won’t be paying subscriptions to Brussels by the end of this period,” he said.
“But that alone won’t be anything like enough, so there will also be more resourcing through the taxation system, and also through economic growth.”
He also told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “huge, very difficult” discussions with the Treasury “went to the wire” until Chancellor Philip Hammond was certain that the additional spending was affordable.
“We are clear that there will be an increased burden of taxation,” he confirmed.
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Sarah Wollaston, the Tory chair of the Commons Health Committee, branded the idea there would be a Brexit dividend “tosh”.
Philip Lee, who quit as a justice minister last week in protest at May’s Brexit policy, dismissed the idea any money saved from being in the EU could be used to pay for the NHS.
“As a GP, I‘m happy to see more money for our health & social care. We need to spend more as our population ages,” he tweeted.
“But we must be honest about how we are going to pay. There is no evidence yet that there will be a ‘Brexit dividend’ - so it’s tax rises, more borrowing or both.”
Paul Johnson, director of the well-respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, also dismissed Downing Street’s promotion of the idea leaving the EU would give the Treasury more money to spend.
“There isn’t a Brexit dividend,” he said on Sunday. “If you look further down the road, yes, we’ll stop paying money to the European Union, but the economy’s already shrunk a bit as a result of the vote; the Government has accepted that.
“Actually the public finances will be £15bn or so worse off, not better off, so there really just isn’t money there for a Brexit dividend.”
May will use her speech in London to say the NHS has a special place in British life, hailing the work of those who treated victims of the Manchester Arena attack last year.
The prime minister will also recall her own reliance on the NHS for help when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, saying: “I would not be doing the job I am doing today without that support.”
Of the increased investment, Mrs May is set to say: “The NHS will be growing significantly faster than the economy as a whole, reflecting the fact that the NHS is this Government’s number one spending priority.
“This must be a plan that ensures every penny is well spent. It must be a plan that tackles waste, reduces bureaucracy and eliminates unacceptable variation, with all these efficiency savings reinvested back into patient care.”