Brexit: Philip Hammond must honour £350m NHS pledge, MPs demand

The 41 MPs claim that 'anything else will be a betrayal of the wishes of the British people'

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A cross-party group of MPs have called on the Chancellor Philip Hammond to commit to spending £350 million a week on the NHS after Brexit.

The pledge to inject cash into the health service, which was advocated by the Vote Leave campaign throughout the EU referendum campaign and proudly displayed on their battle bus, has since been abandoned by the so-called Brexiteers.

But a group of 41 MPs are now calling on the Chancellor to honour the commitment, adding, “anything else will be a betrayal of the wishes of the British people”.

The MPs also highlight that several members of the Cabinet were all members of the Vote Leave campaign including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom, and the International Development Secretary Priti Patel.  

Despite the NHS commitment having been one of the flagship pledges in the run-up to the referendum, the ministers have, so far, made no mention of the injection of cash while touring the television studios repeating the Government’s message that “Brexit means Brexit”.

In a letter to Mr Hammond, the 41 MPs said that while they “accept the verdict of the British people” in the referendum the Government must include “single most visible promise” of the Leave campaign and spend £350 million more a week on the NHS.

They add: “In just under a month, you will present your first Autumn Statement. We are calling on you to commit to increase national NHS spending by £350 million a week – that is £18.2 billion a year – as soon as this money becomes available by leaving the European Union. This additional funding must be over and above the amount that is currently planned to be spent on the National Health Service.

“Anything else will be a betrayal of the wishes of the British people. We challenge you, when you stand up in the House of Commons on November 23rd, to show us the money and commit to Vote Leave’s promise; or explain why you cannot, and why your cabinet colleagues so cynically misled the British people.”

The signatories include MPs from the Labour party, the Green party and the Liberal Democrats. Owen Smith, who challenged Jeremy Corbyn for leadership of Labour in the summer, is among the names – he had advocated a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

Chuka Umunna, a Labour MP and chair of Vote Leave Watch, said the message to Mr Hammond “is loud and clear”.

“He has a month to work out how the Government are going to find the money to keep this promise. If he can’t I hope his pro-Leave colleagues will explain why they pulled the wool over the eyes of so many voters during the campaign,” he added.

Here is the full letter

Dear Chancellor

We believe in a Britain with an excellent, well-funded public sector that provides a world-class service to the British people, pays its hard-working staff well and treats them with respect.

This was the vision of Britain promised by your cabinet colleagues who campaigned for a Leave vote in the EU referendum. Vote Leave promised that, if Britain left the EU, £350m a week extra would be spent on the NHS. They travelled the country in a bus which said: “We send the EU £350 million a week let’s fund our NHS instead.” In the press conference suite at their London headquarters, a large sign read: “Let’s give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week.”

The Foreign Secretary, the Secretary of State for International Trade, the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for International Development all appeared in photo opportunities featuring these messages. They made a very clear promise to the British people, and it is clear that a very large number of people believed this promise.

In your speech to Conservative Party Conference earlier this month, you said that the message of the referendum result had been “received, loud and clear” by the government. Members of the government talk of the “mandate” from the voters for Brexit.

We accept the verdict of the British people. Yet it is clear that, if this mandate is to mean anything, it must include the single most visible promise of the Leave campaign – spending £350 million more a week on the NHS.

In just under a month, you will present your first Autumn Statement. We are calling on you to commit to increase national NHS spending by £350 million a week – that is £18.2 billion a year – as soon as this money becomes available by leaving the European Union. This additional funding must be over and above the amount that is currently planned to be spent on the National Health Service.

Anything else will be a betrayal of the wishes of the British people. We challenge you, when you stand up in the House of Commons on November 23rd, to show us the money and commit to Vote Leave’s promise; or explain why you cannot, and why your cabinet colleagues so cynically misled the British people.

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