'Anything else will be a betrayal of the wishes of the British people,' progressive MPs claim
A group of 41 progressive MPs have called on Philip Hammond to uphold the Vote Leave promise of £350m extra a week for the NHS.
In a letter, they argue that since the government claims to have heard the message of the referendum ‘loud and clear,’ it must accept its mandate to realise the ‘single most visible promise of the Leave campaign.’
Led by Chuka Umunna, the chair of Vote Leave Watch, they call on Hammond to include an additional £18.2bn a year for the NHS in his autumn statement, pointing to the fact that Leave campaigners — including cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom and Priti Patel — drove around the country in the Brexit bus and took part in photo ops and press conferences featuring the pledge.
‘Anything else will be a betrayal of the wishes of the British people,’ they argue.
Here is the full text of the letter:
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.”