Brexit campaigners have track record of hostility to NHS, say MPs

NHS Hospital

Campaigners for Britain to leave the European Union could seek to dismantle the National Health Service if they win June’s referendum, senior Labour backbenchers claim.

Labour members of the cross-party health select committee say the record of leading Eurosceptics, including Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of Vote Leave, suggests they could use the freedom won by leaving the EU to undermine the healthcare system. Elliott used to run the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which advocates lower taxes and public spending.

“We have spent our political lives campaigning on the NHS. The same cannot be said of those campaigning to leave the EU – particularly leading members of Vote Leave,” said backbenchers Emma Reynolds, Ben Bradshaw and Paula Sherriff.

“They now pretend to care about the future of the NHS but they have, in the very recent past, been vocal proponents of policies that would finish the NHS as we know it. Increased privatisation; cuts to NHS spending; reduced pay for NHS staff; allowing NHS Trusts to fail; and increasing prescription charges. All have been repeatedly proposed by leading members of Vote Leave.”

The future of the NHS has been hotly contested by both sides of the referendum debate, with the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, insisting that leaving would “truly undermine the public finances” and “inevitably mean less money” for the NHS.

However, the leave camp insists that some of the cash currently spent on contributions to the EU budget could be brought home and spent on public services, including the NHS, if Britain chose to go it alone.

A Vote Leave spokesman said: “It’s amazing to see Labour politicians arguing against spending more money on the health service. If we Vote Leave on 23 June we can spend the £350m we send to Brussels each week on our priorities like the NHS.”

But the backbenchers said: “Now is not the time to bequeath the future of the health service to a group of ideologically obsessed rightwingers who have never cared about the NHS before.”

Powered by article was written by Heather Stewart Political editor, for on Tuesday 29th March 2016 21.17 Europe/London

  • This article was amended on Tuesday 29 March 2016 because it misquoted a Vote Leave spokesman as saying £350m is sent to Brussels each day. This has been corrected. © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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