MPs from Labour and the other opposition parties have added their names to an amendment to the Article 50 Bill to force the Prime Minister to publish plans on how she will make good on the pledge to increase spending on the NHS by £350million per week once Britain leaves the EU.
During the EU referendum campaign, Vote Leave - including five current cabinet ministers – pledged to spend an extra £350 million a week on the NHS once Britain leaves the EU. The amendment - which the clerks to the House of Commons have accepted as being within the scope of the Bill - if called and then passed, will force the Government to make clear whether this pledge will be delivered after Brexit or whether leading Leave campaigners like Boris Johnson are set to break their promise to the British people.
The amendment has been put down by Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of Vote Leave Watch, and is supported by 40 MPs from Labour and other opposition parties, including 10 former Shadow Cabinet members, former Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith, the former Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander and former Scottish Secretary Ian Murray.
Last September, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, said that it is was right that people call on him and others to ensure the £350m pledge is kept. But leading Vote Leave campaigner, Conservative MP Suella Fernandes, appearing on ITV1's Peston on Sunday today, said it was "dishonourable" to seek to ensure the pledge was delivered on in the Bill. It has subsequently transpired that she appeared alongside Vote Leave’s bus during the referendum.
Commenting, Chuka Umunna MP, Chair of Vote Leave Watch, said:
“The Prime Minister likes to say that Brexit means Brexit. If that is true, it has to mean that the most high-profile Leave campaign promise will be kept, and that £350 million more a week will be spent on our NHS after we leave the EU.
“The peoples’ verdict in the referendum was surely predicated on the Leave campaign’s biggest promise coming true - people will regard it as a gross betrayal if this pledge is not delivered.
“I urge MPs from all parties, whether they voted Leave or Remain, to support this amendment. We need the Government to admit the real impact Brexit will have on NHS funding – and hold ministers like Boris Johnson to account if it is shown that they misled the public.”
Notes to editors:
The full text of the amendment reads:
Clause 1, page 1, line 5, at end insert—
“(3) Before exercising the power under subsection 1, the Prime Minister must prepare and publish a report on the effect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU on national finances, including the impact on health spending.
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment calls for the Government to publish a report on the effect of EU withdrawal on the national finances, particularly health spending following claims in the referendum campaign that EU withdrawal would allow an additional £350 million per week to be spent on the National Health Service.
During the referendum campaign, members of the current cabinet promised to spend £350 million more a week on the NHS after Brexit:
Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade: “Instead of handing over £350m a week to Brussels we should be spending that money on local priorities like the Welsh NHS, which has faced a billion pounds of cuts by the Welsh Labour Government since 2011.” Link.
Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport: “Getting to a proper seven day NHS could make a real difference to this country. It would be so much easier to pay for that change if we took back control of our £350 million a week contribution to the EU and spent it on our priorities.” Link.
Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary: Boris stood in front of a sign at Vote Leave HQ that read: “Let’s give our NHS the £350m the EU takes every week”. Link.
Andrea Leadsom, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: She was pictured in front of the Vote Leave bus, which featured the slogan “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead.” Link.
Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development: “The UK sends an eye-watering £350 million to the EU every week. That’s enough to build a new fully staffed hospital.” Link.
Boris Johnson’s comments from September are reported here: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/sep/25/boris-johnson-nhs-extra-funds-after-brexit-andrew-marr-lansley.
A picture of Suella Fernandes with the Vote Leave bus can be seen here: https://twitter.com/suellafernandes/status/742681655027044353.