Michael Gove urged to back Brexit Bill amendment over £350m NHS claim

Exclusive: Labour MP Chuka Ummuna demands action in letter to prominent Leave campaigner

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Thursday 02 February 2017 20:31
Michael Gove talks to supporters during a Vote Leave rally on June 4, 2016
Michael Gove talks to supporters during a Vote Leave rally on June 4, 2016

Michael Gove is being urged to “make good on his promise” and back an amendment to the Article 50 Bill demanding the Government publish an analysis of the impact of Brexit on the NHS.

If successful the amendment would compel Downing Street to probe the effects of exiting the EU on the UK’s health service. It would also place pressure on those who claimed the NHS would benefit from £350m extra a week one Britain left the EU.

In a letter to the former Cabinet Minister, Chuka Ummuna, a Labour MP who chairs the campaigning organisation Vote Leave Watch, said Mr Gove “should have no hesitation” in voting for the amendment given he was co-chair of the Vote Leave Group.

During the referendum campaign prominent Leave advocates, including Mr Gove, travelled around the country on a battlebus promising voters a £350m-a-week spending bonanza for the health service.

Michael Gove says vote to Remain would make British public 'hostages' to the EU

But despite the NHS commitment having been one of the flagship pledges in the run-up to the referendum, ministers have, so far, made no mention of the proposed injection of cash in their plans for Britain’s exit from the EU.

The amendment to the European Union Notification of Withdrawal Bill – the legislation needed to invoke Article 50 - has the support of 52 MPs. Supporters include former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, and former Labour leadership contender Owen Smith. It will be decided on Friday whether the amendment goes forward.

In the letter to the former Justice Secretary, Mr Umunna, the chair of Vote Leave Watch and Labour MP, said: “I appreciate that you are no longer in Government. But as a backbencher with an apparently sincere wish to boost the resources available for our NHS, I cannot understand why you could not back this amendment.”

“Many of those who voted Leave, in party on the basis that extra monies would be put into the NHS, will consider the failure to make good on the Vote Leave NHS pledge to be a gross betrayal,” he added.

“So you can join me and dozens of other MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens by adding your name to the amendment to show you intend to make good on your promise

“If you fail to do so, it will simply confirm to the British people the hollow cynicism of your promises about our National Health Service.”

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat MP and former health minister during the coalition, said his party have “come together with Labour and Green MPs to force the Government to come clean about whether or not Brexit will leave £350 million a week more to be spent on the NHS, as the Vote Leave campaign promised”.

He continued: “There is no reason whatsoever why Vote Leave MPs like Michael Gove shouldn’t join them – unless, that is, they are scared of being shown up for misleading the British public during the referendum.

“Our NHS is in dire need of extra funding, and all MPs, Remain or Leave, should get behind that.”

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