Political

Norman Lamb to float dedicated NHS tax at Lib Dem conference this weekend

The Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Norman Lamb will use his keynote speech at the party’s federal conference in Brighton this weekend to float the idea of a dedicated NHS tax and to announce a new advisory group of health experts:

The Liberal Democrats are poised to become the first major political party to back a dedicated new tax to help rescue the NHS from its deep financial problems.

The party is about to start examining the wisdom and practicalities of introducing a ringfenced tax which would involve a one pence increase in either income tax or National Insurance.

The party has recruited a panel of senior doctors and NHS experts to advise it on how what it calls “a dedicated NHS and care tax” would help ease the health service’s decade-long financial squeeze…

“The uncomfortable truth is that we are falling further behind other European countries in how much we spend on health and care. So let’s look at the case for a dedicated health and care tax, shown on your pay packet,” Lamb will say.

“We must be honest with the British people. If we believe that more money is needed, if we conclude that we all need to pay perhaps an extra penny in the pound, then we must be prepared to say it. We must give this [idea] proper consideration,” he will add…

The party’s “new Beveridge group” of advisers will include Dr Clare Gerada, the outspoken ex-chair of the Royal College of GPs, who recently defected to the Lib Dems from Labour; Prof Dinesh Bhugra, an ex-president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists; and Prof Nick Bosanquet, an expert in health economics at Imperial College London who has also worked with Reform, the right-of-centre thinktank that works on public sector reform.

One point to note about the new group of experts: not only is this a good way to inform policy on issues where technical details need to be worked out, it is also a good route to running genuinely effective campaigns as it provides a means for building a broader coalition behind them.

Hence it’s no coincidence that this sort of coalition-building approach to campaigning also features in my recent pamphlet setting out a new strategy for rebuilding the Liberal Democrats.

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