LABOUR CONFERENCE: NHS recruitment drive to be funded by mansion owners and tobacco firms under Labour
16:10 23 September 2014
Tobacco firms, tax avoiders and “mansion” owners will be targeted to pay for a £2.5 billion NHS recruitment drive if Labour takes power, Ed Miliband said.
In his final party conference speech before the general election, the Opposition leader said creating a “world class” health and social care system was one of the six main goals in his 10-year plan to restore the UK’s fortunes.
A “Time to Care” fund would be created to tackle shortages that have left wards and surgeries dangerously understaffed, and transform a “creaking” home care system, he pledged.
Its first priority will be the recruitment of 20,000 nurses, 8,000 GPs, 3,000 midwives and 5,000 care workers, as part of a wider shift to a more integrated health and care system proposed by the party.
The cash will come from a new annual “mansion tax” on £2 million-plus homes, a US-style levy on cigarette manufacturers and a promise to find ways to close tax loopholes that the party says cost the Treasury £1.1 billion.
“We won’t borrow a penny to do it,” he told the gathering in Manchester where shadow chancellor Ed Balls yesterday warned activists that austerity would continue under Labour - including a fresh squeeze on child benefit.
“And we won’t do it by raising taxes on everyday working people.”
Instead those paying for the improvement would be tax-dodging hedge funds, tobacco giants “who make soaring profit on the back of ill health” and those wealthy enough to own large homes, he said.
“Doing it together means everyone playing their part to help fund our NHS.
“The stakes are incredibly high in this election. But nowhere more than on the NHS.
“The NHS is sliding backwards under this Government. They are privatising and fragmenting it. Just think what it would look like after five more years.
“It is not safe in their hands.
“We built the NHS. We saved the NHS. We will repeal their Health and Social Care Bill and we will transform the NHS for the future.”
Mr Miliband stressed the party’s commitment to fiscal discipline, insisting a “world class” country can be achieved without “big spending”.
Mr Balls received a muted reaction to his own speech as he set out plans to extend real-terms cuts to child benefit until at least 2017.
The Labour pair continue to trail David Cameron and George Osborne by some distance over the key election issue of who can be trusted to run the economy.
But Mr Miliband sought to paint a brighter longer-term picture - suggesting Britain was so damaged it will take Labour a decade to fix it and laid out a series of goals the party would aim to achieve by the end of a second term.
Doubling the number of first-time buyers to 400,000 a year, boosting apprenticeship take-up until it matches the number going to university, halving the number of low-paid workers and creating a million new “green” technology jobs also form part of his “national mission”.
In a direct riposte to the Government’s much-vaunted “long-term economic plan”, Mr Miliband said he wanted to “restore people’s faith in the future” with his own “plan for Britain’s future”.
“’Can anyone build a better future for the working people of Britain?’ That is the general election question,” he said.
“Our task is to restore people’s faith in the future.
“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.
“We can build that better future for you and your family, wherever you live in the United Kingdom, and this speech is about Labour’s plan to do it: Labour’s plan for Britain’s future.”
He hailed his conference-opening pledge to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020 as the best way of “rewarding the talents of all”.
Setting out the plans to double the numbers getting on the housing ladder - partly through a pledge to be building 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 - he said property ownership is “that most British of dreams” but that it had “faded” for too many young people priced out of the market.
He called for a “revolution in apprenticeships” to ensure as many school leavers go into one as now go on to study for a degree.
At present four times as many go to university, “leaving both young people and businesses without the skills they need to succeed for the future”, he will add.
There would be action to tackle the “modern injustice” of self-employed people lacking pensions and being refused mortgages, he said.
And ensuring the UK caught up with countries such as Germany, Japan, the United States, India and China in creating jobs in green technology was “the most important thing I can do in politics for the future of my kids and their generation,” he said.