EXCL Health minister all-but rules out Brexit bonus for the NHS
A health minister has all-but ruled out fulfilling the Vote Leave campaign's pledge to spend an extra £350m a week on the NHS after Brexit.
Philip Dunne said his department should not be “counting any chickens at this stage” and argued all Whitehall departments will be vying for their share of funding once the UK has formally quit the EU.
In an interview with the House magazine, Mr Dunne also stressed that the spending commitment - which was emblazoned on the side of the Vote Leave referendum campaign bus - was not made by any health minister.
His comments are the clearest admission yet that any spare cash the Government gets post-Brexit will not all be invested in the NHS.
"There clearly will be some - we will be able to cease making contributions to the EU," he said. "There have been various pledges made by the Chancellor in the run up to 2020 and it will be for the Chancellor of the day, there will be an election in 2020, and it will be at that point that the Chancellor will decide what happens to that money.
“Obviously every department across government will make a pitch for some of that money. So I don’t think we should be counting any chickens at this stage.”
The minister added: "We’ve got some time to run before we’re out of the EU, circumstances might change, we’ll have spending reviews before that.
“We’ll have to see what happens in those circumstances. None of the health ministers today were part of that specific pledge and I think we’re going to have to take that one year by year. But undoubtedly there will always be demand across all government departments to spend more money."
Former health secretary Andrew Lansley has said the NHS should be handed an annual “Brexit bonus” of £5bn by 2020-21 to tackle the cash crisis in the health service.
Leading Brexiteer and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has lent his support to Lord Lansley’s recommendation, saying the NHS would get substantial extra funding after quitting the EU.
Mr Dunne, who backed the Remain campaign, also called on Theresa May to reassure EU citizens working in the NHS that they will be allowed to stay in the UK after Brexit.
He said: “We have over 50,000 EU citizens employed in the NHS. There’s a similar number of non-EU nationals working in the NHS too. So it’s very important that we ensure that we reassure those existing employees in the NHS about the Brexit negotiation."