Menu
Matt Hancock pic

The three false claims that dominate the election

One: Matt Hancock, Michael Gove and others have been travelling the country repeating the claim that the Johnson government has launched “the largest hospital building plan in a generation, with 40 new hospitals across the country.”

In fact all the Johnson government has done is provide £2.7 billion to fund just SIX new or refurbished hospital projects.

£100 million is also provided as “seed funding” for 21 trusts to draw up plans for another 34 hospital projects – which will potentially cost another £10 billion or more – after 2025.

By comparison from 1997-2010 Tony Blair’s government built well over 100 new hospitals – albeit funded through PFI.

It’s also questionable whether the 34 future projects will ever get beyond the planning stage, since they would need to be agreed and funded by a future government after at least one further election, during or after 2025.

None of the six new hospitals that have been given the “immediate” go-ahead is ready to start work for many months yet. In some cases it’s already clear that the amount of capital allocated falls short of the amount needed.

Two: “It’s unfair that people coming from European countries can access free NHS care without paying in while others make significant contributions.” – Michael Gove, Mail on Sunday, Nov 17

Gove’s claim has been angrily rejected. Nicolas Hatton, the co-founder of EU citizens’ rights group the3million, told the Guardian: “It’s a cheap political ploy based on xenophobia designed to get votes.”

“EU citizens do not have automatic rights to health systems in EU states,” he said.

“In the first three months, you are treated like a tourist with no rights, and after three months, unless you are working or are self-sufficient, then you have no rights to the NHS.”

Labour MEP Claude Moraes said “The line that Gove used about ‘paying into’ the NHS is really an old-style racist trope and is designed to target Labour marginals where the vote is about leave or remain. You can’t “pay into the NHS” even if you wanted to.”

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott also intervened on Twitter to argue:

“Michael Gove is completely wrong to say people from EU are accessing the NHS without ‘paying in’.

“EU workers pay taxes. The NHS is not a contributory system.

The government’s own Migration Advisory Committee report in 2018 concluded “There is no doubt that EEA migrants contribute more to the health workforce than they consume in healthcare. This can be explained by their age profiles, they tend to be younger than the make-up of the resident population.”

Three: the NHS would be off the table in any future US trade talks

US President Donald Trump stated clearly during his visit to England in June this year that the NHS and its £120bn budget should be “on the table” in any trade talks.

Subsequent efforts by PM Johnson and his ministers to undo the electoral damage that this could cause among their own supporters have relied on us accepting Johnson’s own assurances and the attempt by Trump the following day to tone down what he had said.

But can Johnson’s protestations be taken seriously? It’s clear from a Times report back in September 2018 that the “Initiative for Free Trade”, a right wing “think tank” closely linked with senior Conservatives (former ministers Liam Fox, David Davis, along with ERG chair Steve Baker and Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, has explicitly called for the NHS to open up contracts to run NHS hospitals to US corporations.

Now the Led By Donkeys campaign has unearthed evidence including video footage of the launch of this IFT report, and confirmed that it was hosted by Boris Johnson in the map room of the Foreign Office, with taxpayers picking up the tab for the £6,000 event. There is footage of Johnson himself introducing it as a “crucial” event and seated as the proposals were unveiled.

Since then Jeremy Corbyn has confronted Johnson with the leaked document proving that preliminary discussions on “full market access” to the NHS have already been held with US trade representatives. It seems the more they deny involvement the less credible they become.

More articles in The Lowdown

Sign up to our newsletter for more articles like this

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.