Sarah Wollaston, who switched from the Tories to the Lib Dems via Change UK, and who is a GP, has raised questions about the government attempt to tackle the staffing crisis by agreeing a deal to pay doctors’ pensions bills this year, a move which could cost hundreds of millions of pounds (see 9am update).
This takes the biscuit for the most unusual politics story of the day so far… although it does make a serious point about fake news.
Doctors’ groups have begun responding tothe emergency scheme ministers and NHS chiefs have come up withto stop what critics call the “NHS pensions tax trap” deterring hospital consultants and GPs in England from working extra shifts this winter.
The British Medical Association, which represents about 70% of the UK’s doctors, has given the proposal a cautious welcome.
Under it, doctors who work enough hours this year 2019 – 20) to then receive a hefty bill linked to the rising value of their pension will have that bill in effect paid for by the NHS. The unprecedented move could cost theNHSbetween tens and hundreds of millions of pounds .
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the BMA’s ruling council, said:
These proposals under discussion could, if properly implemented, provide the respite needed to enable significant numbers of doctors to increase the work they are doing, giving vital patient care at a time of unprecedented demand.
However, we don’t yet have important details about how such a scheme will work; details that are crucial to the BMA and to the tens of thousands of doctors that we represent in order to provide the necessary reassurance that doctors can take on additional work without this resulting in any financial penalty.
We look forward to having those details in the very near future, and call on the next government to urgently scrap the annual allowance in defined benefit schemes such as the NHS, a solution proposed by their own advisory body , the Office for Tax Simplification.
However, EveryDoctor, which campaigns to improve medics’ working conditions in the NHS, dismissed the plan as a “short-term fix” that would not solve the problem of an estimated 40% of doctors reducing their workloads in order to avoid being hit by a bill for up to £ 100, 000.
A spokesperson said:
The pressures on the NHS are no longer isolated to the winter months. We are in a constant, spiralling recruitment crisis and the NHS is 10, 000 Doctors short.
Vast swathes of UK doctors have been forced out of work by the 2016 punitive tax rules. A short-term fix to cover the winter period will not solve this problem. The government instead needs to create a long-term, sustainable solution which safeguards the NHS and its hard-working staff.
TheGreen partyis formally launching its manifesto this morning. The centerpiece will be a pledge to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2030.
In an election broadcast later today, the party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas, will tell voters that the 12 December election offers “the greatest – perhaps the last – opportunity to change course” for the UK.
You can read more about the Green party’s manifesto below.
Q Do you need to get rid of billionaires to help others?
A John McDonnell says people are understandably upset that the wealthiest are getting tax breaks. £ 100 bn has been given away in tax cuts, it’s gone to corporations, cuts to capital gains tax, inheritance tax and the highest rate of income tax.
Q The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the headline figure – £ 100 bn – about tax cuts for the wealthiest is wrong as some have benefited people who are not so well off.
A McDonnell insists the figure is not wrong.
Q The Phones 4u billionaire, John Caldwell, says he can’t tolerate “spiteful envy”.
A McDonnell says tell Caldwell to come see him and he’ll explain Labor’s policies to encourage entrepreneurship. It’s a misunderstanding by Caldwell, the shadow chancellor suggests.
Q Is student debt going to be addressed?
A It has to be addressed by whoever is in government. He declines to say whether or not it will be cancelled.
Q Are your policies on cracking down on foxhunting etc a “townie’s policy”?
A It’s making sure the hunting ban is adhered to.
That concludes the interview.
The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, is on the Today program now.
Q Is it correct to say no one should be a billionaire?
A We need to attack the gross levels of inequality through a fair taxation system.
Q How flat should society be?
A Most of us will think on the one hand you’ve got 150 billionaires and on the other hand people queueing at food banks and that’s not fair.
The justice secretary, Robert Buckland, appeared to rule out giving MPs a free vote on overturning the foxhunting ban if the (Conservatives) win a majority at the general election.
The controversial offer made by the former prime minister Theresa Mayin the 2017 Tory manifesto (was dropped swiftly) after her poor performance at the election. Buckland told Sky News he thought it was unlikely Boris Johnson would revive the controversial issue.
Foxhunting was bannedthrough legislation introduced by the Blair government in 2004.
I don’t see a return to that at all. I think the agenda has moved on. We are now talking in our own policies about strong animal welfare measures. We are cracking down on issues like live transport. We are dealing with trophy hunting, the keeping of primates as pets.
He added that he believes Johnson has an “authenticity” on environmental issues that is an “important hallmark” of his leadership.
The Lib Dem justice spokesman, Dr Phillip Lee, is also doing the media rounds this morning. He told the Today program the staffing crisis in theNHSwill get worse if Brexit goes ahead (quotes from PA Media).
We can see that there is a clear staffing crisis in the NHS and this is being exacerbated by the prospect of Brexit. In my own professional experience I meet many doctors over the years who are trained in the EU and indeed nursing staff and I think if we proceed with Brexit, the staffing crisis will get worse.
So by investing extra money, by remaining within the EU,Liberal Democratswill protect the NHS.
The Lib Dems say they would boost the NHS by raising income tax by a penny if they gained power. Asked about the prospect of the Lib Dems winning, Lee added:
The fact that we’re on 20 MPs and to get to 326 is quite a target, yes. We will get to the other side of the election and if the Conservatives haven’t got a majority then discussions will take place, but we will take each issue as it comes and vote accordingly and we will not be puttingJeremy Corbyninto No 10…
We do have a choice not to put either of the two prime ministers into No 10, which is why we think that there should be more of an offer put to the public in terms of who should be prime minister.
The shadow justice secretary, Robert Buckland, was asked about Prince Andrew on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. He said it was not appropriate for him to comment.
By contrast, the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told Sky News:
I think he [the Duke of York] should cooperate with all the authorities and make sure justice is served.
The Lib Dems ’Chuka Umunna went even further on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.