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Tax rise to boost NHS funds has support of public, Hunt suggests

Jeremy Hunt said the public are prepared to pay more tax to fund health and social care as long as the money is spent wisely.

A ring-fenced tax to provide extra funds for the NHS and social care has the support of the public, Jeremy Hunt said in an apparent message to colleagues to back the idea.

The Health and Social Care Secretary said more cash was needed to tackle the problem of how to pay for Britain’s ageing population and it is “vital to be open to innovative models of taxation” to provide the money.

But he acknowledged that there could be resistance to such a move from Chancellor Philip Hammond because the Treasury would be reluctant to support measures which restrict flexibility over how to use tax revenue.

Mr Hunt stressed that he had not made his mind up on a hypothecated tax, but told the Mail on Sunday: “The British people say, ‘I don’t mind more money going to the NHS but I want to know it is for the NHS and won’t be wasted.’”

In a sign the argument within Government may be going in that direction, the Sunday Times reported that Theresa May will back extra NHS spending and a senior Cabinet source told the newspaper a special tax is “still on the table”.

The announcement of a multi-billion pound increase in funds could be timed to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the NHS in July.

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Theresa May and Jeremy Hunt (Christopher Furlong/PA)

Mr Hunt suggested an increase in tax could avoid the political calamity over social care funding that hit the Tories during the general election campaign, when Theresa May was forced into a hasty U-turn over a package of reforms dubbed the “dementia tax” by critics.

He told the Mail on Sunday: “It is beyond dispute that with a million more over-75s in ten years’ time, the NHS and social care system are going to need more money.

“The public are very clear that for that specific issue they are willing to pay more tax but want to know that every penny is going to be spent wisely.”

Asked if the appeal of such a ringfenced tax was that it would guarantee money to help the elderly and infirm, Mr Hunt said: “Absolutely. That is the attraction.”

A 1p rise in income tax could raise around £5 billion to help fund the health and care system.

“No one can deny we got our fingers burned on social care in the election,” Mr Hunt said.

He added that “if we want every single old person to be treated with the dignity and respect we would want for our own mum or dad, it will need more resources.”

But he acknowledged the idea of specifying what a tax could be used for could meet resistance in Whitehall: “The Treasury do not like it because it takes it out of their hands.”

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