Ed Miliband: tax on tobacco giants will boost NHS
Labour leader will tell sceptical voters in speech to Labour party conference that he can bring the country back together.
Ed Miliband is to put the nations health at the centre of a 10-year plan for Britains future on Tuesday, backing the NHS with funding from a novel windfall tax on the profits of UK tobacco companies and the proceeds of a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m.
In his final Labour party conference speech before next years general election, Miliband will tell sceptical voters he can bring the country back together and offer six ambitious goals, including changes to the NHS, designed to overcome the greatest challenges of our age and transform the ethics of how Britain is run over the next decade.
In his final Labour party conference speech before next year’s general election, Miliband will tell sceptical voters he can bring the country back together and offer six ambitious goals, including changes to the NHS, designed to overcome “the greatest challenges of our age and transform the ethics of how Britain is run” over the next decade.
The NHS is generally acknowledged to be facing a growing funding crisis after four years of tight settlements, deepening demographic pressure and an inefficient system that splits health and social care. The Nuffield Trust has suggested there will be a financial shortfall of £2bn in 2015-16.
A mansion tax could raise £1.7bn, and had originally been earmarked by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, to fund a 10p starting rate of income tax, but that is now due to be funded by abolishing the marriage tax rate.
The details of a tax on the profits of tobacco companies – a variation of a so-called sin tax – were not available late on Monday from shadow cabinet sources. But tobacco firms, already subject to heavy excise duties and threatened with legislation on plain packaging, will be furious. Labour is likely to counter that the firms have a duty to help the NHS because of the link between cancer and tobacco. Estimates for the amount spent on tobacco in the UK in 2011 range from £15.3bn to £18.3bn. The cost of smoking to the NHS is put at between £2.7bn and £5.2bn.
The Treasury earned £9.5bn in revenue from tobacco duties in the financial year 2011-12.
Miliband is expected to spell out to delegates in Manchester how many doctors and nurses his extra funding will provide.
The Labour leader’s big six goals are designed to restore a lost faith in the future. They are:
• Ensuring as many school leavers go on to apprenticeships as go to university.
• Help working families share fairly in the UK’s wealth.
• Meet the demand for new homes by doubling the number of first-time buyers from the current 200,000 a year to 400,000.
• Halve the number of low paid – defined as those earning two-thirds of median earnings – from 5 million to 2.5 million.
• Create a million more hi-tech green jobs in a bid to overhaul the number of Germans and Japan
• Restore the NHS by integrating health and care services, ensuring joined up preventive care to keep the healthy out of hospital.
Miliband is hoping the commitment to a 10-year plan focusing on the central issues facing voters, allied with tough messages on deficit reduction, can persuade voters Labour has a plan that takes the country beyond yet more sacrifice.
In a conference operating in the large shadow of the seismic Scottish independence referendum, Miliband will try to address the anger and despair some voters expressed in Scotland, especially in Labour strongholds. He will argue: “Can anyone build a better future for the working people of Britain? That is the general election question. So many people have lost faith in the future. I’ve met young people who should have the brightest of futures who tell me their generation is falling into a black hole. People in England who think all politics is rubbish.
“People in Scotland who wanted to leave our country because they felt they had nothing left to lose. Our task is to restore people’s faith in the future. But the way to do it is not to break up our country. It is to break with the old way of doing things, break with the past.
“I’m not talking about changing a policy, or simply a different programme. But something that is bigger: transforming the idea, the ethic, of how our country is run.
“Strip away all of the sound and fury and what people across England, Scotland and Wales, across every part of the UK, are saying is this country doesn’t care about me. Politics doesn’t listen. The economy doesn’t work. And they are not wrong. They are right. But this Labour party has a plan to put it right.
“For Labour, this election is about you. You have made the sacrifices, you have taken home lower wages year after year, you have paid higher taxes, you have seen your energy bills rise, you have seen your NHS decline, you know this country doesn’t work for you.”
The six part plan for the next decade is almost entirely economic, avoiding issues like immigration, welfare and political disenchantment, issues that may have driven some traditional Labour voters towards Ukip in England. But Labour believes it is the long term break between growth and living standards is at the heart of voters disillusionment.
The speech will also be watched to see if Miliband acknowledges that the English issue has to be addressed if further Scottish devolution goes ahead.
Faced by pressure to address the issue of English votes for English laws in the Commons, the deputy leader Harriet Harman said: “We do have to recognise there’s an anomaly and look at different ways we can address that”.
- The Guardian,