It seems Labour was right to say the Conservatives could not be trusted to fund the National Health Service properly – if you can believe an expenses cheat.
It should come as no surprise that This Writer does believe him. The two matters are not connected and David Laws will make no political gain from the accusation.
The Conservatives’ key pre-election pledge to protect the NHS with £8bn extra spending a year was entirely disingenuous as the government had been told the service required at least double that amount to keep going, according to a book by a former minister.
Downing Street was informed by an official report that to stay afloat the NHS would need £16bn a year extra in government spending above inflation by 2020, but dismissed this as “mad” and ordered the figure to be halved, according to David Laws.
The book by the former Lib Dem MP, who was chief secretary to the Treasury for little over a fortnight in 2010 before resigning over wrongly claiming £40,000 in expenses and was later a junior minister in the coalition, is being serialised in the Mail on Sunday.
The £8bn a year pledge was a primary plank of the Conservatives’ 2015 election campaign, and designed to ward off Labour claims that the party could not be trusted to properly fund the health service. The figure was explained at the time as being arrived at after a report by Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, found there would be a £30bn a year funding gap for the service by the end of the decade. Stevens said this could be made up from £22bn a year in efficiency savings, leaving £8bn a year for the government to make up.
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