The Prime Minister was urged to use the “Brexit dividend” cash saved from scrapping Britain’s annual EU membership fee for boosting the ailing health and social care system rather than increasing the tax burden on households.
Brexiteer MPs also suggested the Government should be prepared to cancel the expected £39billion EU “divorce” fee and redirect the money to healthcare in response to the lack of cooperation from Brussels in the withdrawal negotiations.
Fresh Tory concerns about the Government’s NHS spending plans emerged yesterday following unconfirmed reports that the Prime Minister is poised to unveil a £4billion hike in health spending to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS next month.
A report – dismissed as “speculation” by Downing Street officials yesterday – claimed Mrs May planned to fund the spending rise through a combination of tax rises, extra borrowing and cash from the Brexit dividend.
Ministers were considering freezing personal allowance income tax thresholds to raise extra revenue for NHS spending. The measure has been condemned as a “stealth tax” in the past.
But former Tory Cabinet minister John Redwood said: “I am against any tax rises to fund the NHS at all.
“We are currently paying around £12billion a year to the EU – that is plenty of money. We do not need tax rises as well.
“We should get on with getting out of the EU and spend the money at home, particularly on health.”
Mr Redwood urged the Prime Minister to ensure the Brexit dividend is available as soon as possible by scrapping the EU negotiations and cancelling the proposed exit fee.
“The EU is not offering us anything for our £39billion fee. We should not pay it and simply leave,” he said.
“The money is the biggest boost we can get from leaving the EU.
“Investing that money at home rather than giving it to the EU could boost growth by around 0.6 percent a year.
Another senior Tory MP said: “A lot of us are very concerned about this and have raised it with ministers.
“We are giving a lot of money to the EU at the moment which could be spent on the NHS rather than raising tax, which would only damage the economy.”
The Tory backbencher said voters might be support tax rises in the short term but would become disillusioned if the move failed to bring drastic improvements in NHS service.
“Voters might well be ready to pay more in tax to the NHS in the short term but would be very disappointed if they don’t see the results they warned coming through,” he said.
Downing Street officials declined to comment on the reports of an imminent announcement of a 3% annual increase in health spending as part of a “multi-year” settlement for the service.
A spokeswoman for Mrs May said: “The Prime Minister is committed to coming forward with a long-term plan for social care and the NHS.”
The spokeswoman said an announcement by the Government earlier this week that immigration visa restrictions on doctors and nurses will be lifted to help NHS recruitment was the first stage in a series of announcements about healthcare.
“We will be coming forward with a plan in due course,” the spokeswoman added.
Decisions about tax changes were a matter for the Treasury at Budget time, she said.
Cabinet ministers including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, leading figures in the Leave campaign at the 2016 EU referendum, have previously pressed the Prime Minister to highlight how the Brexit dividend can be used to fund extra NHS spending.
They have warned that trust in politics could be damaged if the Leave campaign’s promise of an extra £350million a week for the NHS is not delivered.
Many Tory MPs are concerned Mrs May could repeat the healthcare blunders of the last Labour government.
Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, National Insurance contributions were raised by one per cent to fund extra NHS spending.
Polls showed the tax rise was popular at the time but criticism grew as NHS outcome failed to rise in line with the extra investment.