A ring-fenced tax solely for the NHS and social care has the backing of the public, Jeremy Hunt has said.
The Health and Social Care Secretary said Britain’s ageing population meant more cash was needed for health, adding it was “vital to be open to innovative models of taxation” to provide the funding.
His claim will be interpreted in some quarters as a prod to his Cabinet colleagues to back the idea.
Indeed, Mr Hunt acknowledged the idea could be resisted by Chancellor Philip Hammond because the measure could restrict his flexibility over how to use tax revenue.
Mr Hunt stressed he had not totally made up his mind on the idea, but told the Mail on Sunday: “The British people say, ‘I don’t mind more money going to the NHS but I want to know it is for the NHS and won’t be wasted.'”
The Sunday Times reports that Prime Minister Theresa May will back extra spending on the NHS and quotes a senior Cabinet source as saying a special tax is “still on the table”.
A multi-billion pound funding increase announcement could be timed to coincide with the health service’s 70th anniversary in July, it has been suggested.
But speaking later to ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Mr Hunt said it was “premature” to speculate the NHS was set for a short-term funding increase, stressing a structured approach was needed.
A full departmental spending review will happen next year and Mr Hunt wants health to be treated differently, with a longer-than-usual 10-year settlement put in place.
Mr Hunt acknowledged “that isn’t government policy” but “given that it takes seven years to train a doctor and three years to train a nurse, you need to have something that gives you the ability to look ahead”.
Mr Hunt also indicated the tax could avoid another social care funding fiasco, after the Conservatives were forced to perform a u-turn on reforms to the system that were dubbed a “dementia tax” by opponents.
Admitting “we got our fingers burned” on the issue in the General Election, he told the Mail: “It is beyond dispute that with a million more over-75s in 10 years’ time, the NHS and social care system are going to need more money.
“The public are very clear that for that specific issue they are willing to pay more tax but want to know that every penny is going to be spent wisely.”
When asked if the attraction of such a tax was that it would guarantee money for the elderly and infirm, Mr Hunt said: “Absolutely. That is the attraction.”
Raising income tax by 1p could generate around £5bn to help fund health and social care.
A Sky Data poll last year found that more than two-thirds of the public would back an increase in income tax if the money was dedicated to the NHS.
But Mr Hunt acknowledged there could be resistance from the Treasury, which “does not like it because it takes it out of their hands”.
From – SkyNews