Amid the row about the reorganisation of the NHS – on which many coalition MPs have cold feet – it’s easy to forget one simple fact.
The Tories are committed to ring-fencing health; which means even more brutal decisions elsewhere in government. This was a difficult choice (some would say brave) to make in the spending review.
Labour, by contrast, said last summer they would not ring-fence the health service in quite the same way. In fact former health secretary Andy Burnham made a compelling case nearly a year ago as to why it would be a mistake.Burnham admitted it was “counter-intuitive for a health spokesman to be advocating less spending on the NHS.”
Since then – with John Healey as shadow health secretary – we haven’t heard much on what Labour’s policy would now be on this. Unsurprisingly.
We raised a key problem with Ed Balls’ plan to seek a cut in VAT on petrol in this blog on Monday.
Now Justine Greening, Treasury minister, has raised five further points about this, which are topical given that Labour are seeking an opposition day motion today on the issue. I’ll update later if the Balls team want to rebut any points:
1. Ed Balls claims the UK could secure a derogation ‘immediately’ from the EU on VAT on fuel as France did for restaurants. But it took France seven years to secure this derogation and the head of the Office for Tax Simplification said the EU would be ‘unlikely’ to grant one on something as ‘fundamental’ as petrol. No EU member has ever secured a VAT derogation on petrol.
2.He admitted today he was wrong to claim on Monday that VAT on road fuel was cut in the mid-1990s. He admitted that in fact it was cut on domestic fuel.
3. He claims the government is seeking an EU derogation on VAT on fuel in rural areas. But this is regarding Fuel Duty not VAT.
Just before the New Year the No campaign said it had gathered the names of 114 Labour MPs opposed to changing the voting system.
Today the campaign has bought a full-page advert on the back of the Guardian with an impressive list of Labour figures who are on their side. Curiously, however, the number of MPs has dropped to 102 – unless I’ve counted wrongly.