General Election 2015: Andrew Marr’s spat with George Osborne's NHS pledge word-for-word

Marr pushed Osborne to respond to how the Conservatives would find an extra £8bn they have said they will invest in the NHS, and was stonewalled 15 times

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During a heated question and answer session on BBC1 this morning, the interviewer, Andrew Marr, struggled to get a clear from the Chancellor George Osborne about how the Conservatives propose to find the extra £8 billion they have now said they invest in the NHS. Despite asking the question, in different ways, more than 15 times, he failed to get an answer. This is how the exchange went.

ANDREW MARR:

As Tory election strategist, you have just blown a huge hole in your own strategy by making an £8 billion unfunded pledge on the NHS, exactly what you said you were not going to do. Why?

GEORGE OSBORNE:

Well I don’t accept that at all. We have a balanced plan to grow our economy, to make savings in government – including in welfare, to fund our NHS each and every year, to give a tax cut to working people, so that we make work pay, we support our public services and we have …   

AM: (interrupting) You’ve just found if I …

GO: (interrupting) … we have an economic policy that supports our entire country.

AM:

You’ve just found an extra £8 billion. All I’m asking is where does it come from?

GO:

Well if you …


AM:

No higher taxes, extra public spending cuts? Where?

GO:

Well it’s part of our balanced plan. And if you look over the last 5 years …

AM:

That’s not really an answer, Chancellor.

GO:

Well it is actually. If you look at the last 5 years, we found over £7 billion in real terms for the NHS. That’s what happens when you have a sensible plan that makes savings in government, makes efficiencies in government, and then uses the dividends of that to fund our National Health Service each and every year and to support working people with tax cuts. You can’t do … you can’t have strong public services without a strong economy.

AM:

(interrupting) You’re in a sit… you’re in a situation where you’ve told us there are huge public spending cuts to come; there’s going to be a very, very tough time to get rid of the deficit. You said that in the Autumn Statement and you repeated it again in the Budget. All I’m saying is you’ve now found halfway through an election campaign an extra £8 billion, which is not nothing.

GO:

No, no, we have always said we supported the NHS’s own plan for its sustainable future, so we offer the best healthcare in the world and the best medicines.

AM:

(interrupting) But the money, the money.

george-osborne2.jpg
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne (Jeff Overs/BBC via Getty Images)

GO:

Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive, came up with that plan. We’ve worked with him. We’ve funded an initial part of it already. And because we have this balanced economic plan, because we are prepared to take difficult decisions in other parts of government, we can go on increasing the money to the NHS just like we did in the last parliament.

AM:

Okay.

GO:

You said to me, Andrew, 5 years ago, you can’t increase spending on the NHS every year in the interview we did before the last election. We have increased spending on the NHS each year. We’ve also delivered a tax cut for working people each and every year.

AM:

(interrupting) All I’m asking you is where … What I’m asking is where the money is coming from. The inheritance tax announcement that you’ve made this morning, you have said we’re going to fund that by raising taxes on some pensioners. So we know where the money is coming from. The £8 billion on the NHS, you have said nothing like that, it’s totally opaque.

GO:

(interrupting) There’s part … Well I’ll come onto the inheritance tax plan, but we have got a balanced proposal to make savings in government equivalent to £1 in every £100 that the government spends, so that yes we eliminate our deficit and fix the roof when the sun is shining, but also so we can fund a brilliant NHS and give a tax cut to working people.

AM:

(interrupting) You’re still not telling me where the money’s coming from.

GO:

In this parliament, we have found over £7 billion. And by the way, you know in this parliament we had to make even more difficult decisions on public expenditure. We had 5 years of public expenditure restraint …

AM:

Okay.

GO:

… and in the next parliament we need 2 years of public expenditure savings. We’ve set out the balanced plan to achieve it. And part of the balanced plan – and I’m not pretending it’s easy – but we made a judgment call. We want to back the people who rely on our National Health Service, we want to back the people who work in our National …

AM:

(interrupting) Don’t say hardworking families, please.

GO:

I’m talking about all families in this country who rely on our National Health Service and indeed the brilliant people who work in it.

AM:

So if you’re not going to tell me where the money’s coming from, I’m going to tell you where the money’s coming from. It’s going to come from even deeper cuts in the unprotected departmental spending budgets of around 14 per cent in total, so you’re going to hit the police, you’re going to hit the armed forces, you’re going to hit local government to pay for this. That’s the truth, isn’t it?

GO:

We have to make similar savings each year, as we’ve made in the 5 years of this parliament, but for 2 years. So let’s finish the job. Let’s not leave this country exposed to the economic storms out there in the world. Let’s eliminate the deficit, keep our national debt falling as a share of national income (as it now is) as part of a plan for economic security in our country – security for families, security for our country, security for the businesses that create jobs.

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"Andrew, I come on this programme and say yes we’ve got to make difficult decisions in public expenditure. (Getty)"

AM:

Okay. So you’re not going to give me an answer on the £8 billion and where it’s coming from?

GO:

Well I’ve said it …

AM:

(interrupting) You haven’t given me an answer. With respect, you’ve said the economy’s going to grow, everything is going to be fine …

GO:

No, I …

AM:

… somehow we’ll find the money. It’s exactly what you’ve attacked Labour for again and again.

GO:

No, no …

AM:

You can never again say it’s another unfunded Labour spending promise. Not after this.

GO:

Andrew, I come on this programme and say yes we’ve got to make difficult decisions in public expenditure.

AM:

But I won’t tell you what they are.

GO:

Yes we’ve got to save £1 out of £100 the government spends, yes we’ve got to make savings in government departments, yes we’ve got to make savings in welfare – including a freeze on working age benefits …

AM:

(interrupting) So where is the big cut coming? Is it coming in the police?

GO:

(interrupting) … but that is part of a balanced plan in order to eliminate our deficit, give our country economic security so we create jobs, fund our National Health Service and make work pay by giving working people more of what they earn.

AM:

So it’s fair for me to say to you this £8 billion is coming from deeper cuts in unprotected departments?

GO:

It’s part of our public expenditure plans. And you only have to … We have …

AM:

(interrupting) It’s not coming from extra taxes, is it?

GO:

Andrew, we have a track record in this parliament where we found almost £8 billion extra in real terms for the National Health Service in very, very difficult economic circumstances. So we proved our metal, we proved our ability to stand behind the National Health Service in this parliament.

AM:

(interrupting) Okay let me try one last time …

george-osborne-andrew-marr-show.jpg
George Osborne avoided directly answering the question as to where £8bn for the NHS would come from on the Andrew Marr Show

GO:

(interrupting) We can do it in the next parliament.

AM:

Let me try one last time. Eight billion is the limit. It could be much higher than that; that’s the bottom limit. It could be much higher, the money …

GO:

Well …

AM:

… if you don’t get the efficiencies that you want and you don’t know that you will …

GO:

(interrupting) Yeah but the … yeah but the assessment of the NHS itself – this is not my judgment…

AM:

(interrupting) Okay well let’s start with …

GO:

The assessment of the NHS itself is that it can find those efficiencies of course because …

AM:

(interrupting) So let’s … Okay let’s stick with the £8 billion …

GO:

(interrupting) … we want to make sure that every pound goes further.

AM:

… let’s stick with the £8 billion. You’re not going to borrow that money, are you?

GO:

It’s part of our …

AM:

Are you going to borrow an extra £8 billion?

GO:

… it’s part of our plan to reduce the deficit …

AM:

(interrupting) Are you going to borrow an extra £8 billion?

GO:

We’re not … we don’t have to borrow it because it’s part of a …

AM:

(interrupting) Are you going to raise it in taxes?

GO:

I’ve just explained. We’ve got a balanced plan that involves saving £13 billion in the department, £12 billion in welfare …

AM:

(interrupting) I’m talking … Yes but …

GO:

… raise £5 billion extra from dealing with aggressive tax planning and tax avoidance and evasion. As part of that plan, you can fund the National Health Service …

AM:

(interrupting) So no more … so no extra borrowing? You’re not going to fund the …

GO:

(interrupting) The funding for the health service has always been integral to the plan.

AM:

So you’re not going to fund the extra £8 billion for the health service by borrowing, you’re not going to fund it by taxes. That only leaves you extra spending cuts, doesn’t it?

GO:

If you have a sensible plan to balance your public finances, you have a stronger economy and you have stronger public services.

AM:

I keep asking you very straight questions about where the money’s coming from …

GO:

(interrupting) Well I’m giving you very straight answers.

AM:

No you keep saying sensible and balanced, balanced and sensible. That’s not, with respect, exactly what I’m asking.

GO:

I’ve just given you …

AM:

I’m just asking you where the money comes from.

GO:

I’ve just given you very specific numbers. By the way, you don’t get anything like that from the Labour Party. Indeed they don’t even talk about the NHS (inaudible)…

AM:

(interrupting) Actually … actually it’s very interesting. They’re offering less money for the NHS in the first period - £2.5 billion – but they are saying exactly how they’re going to raise the money, which you are not.

GO:

Let’s be clear, if you have an Ed Miliband/Scottish Nationalist government, they will trash this economy and they won’t be able to pay for the public services, and they will undermine economic security and cost people jobs in this country and we’d be back to square one and that would be an outrage …

AM:

Okay do you think …

GO:

… all the work we’ve done in this country to get where we are, so we can support people in work and can create jobs and can support our National Health Service.


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