Leading Brexit campaigner rows back on 'give NHS £350m EU money' promise

Former Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith says NHS pledge was 'never' a commitment

brexit, nhs

Boris Johnson stands beside the Vote Leave campaign bus in Cornwall | Photo: PA Images

Tory Brexit campaigner Iain Duncan Smith has stepped back from his campaign's promise to give the NHS £350m extra per week.

The slogan "Let's give our NHS the £350 million the EU takes every week" was painted on the Leave campaign's posters.

A similar message was emblazoned on the camp's bus: "We send the EU £350 million a week - let's fund our NHS instead."

But the former secretary of state for work and pensions said: "I never said that during the course of the election."

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "The £350m was an extrapolation of the £19.1bn - that's the total amount of money we gave across to the European Union.

"What we actually said was a significant amount of it would go to the NHS. It’s essentially down to the Government but I believe that is what was pledged and that’s what should happen.

"There was talk about it going to the NHS but there are other bits and pieces like agriculture, which is part of the process. That is the divide up. It was never the total."

'Misleading'

When asked how much of the money saved would be given to the NHS, Mr Duncan Smith replied: "Of the money that we give away to the European Union that never comes back, I would think the lion's share.

"That's down to the Government as to what ... but the point that everybody should bear in mind is that money that goes to the EU that comes back, that money now is able to be spent on a priority like the NHS.

"That's not a promise broken. The lion's share of that money, the Government is now able to spend.

"So people can say that there is more money available now for the NHS - categorically more, which is what's required and that's the key point."

The £350m figure was criticised by many, including the US Statistics Authority, as "misleading".

After the vote, Nigel Farage, a Brexit campaigner but not an official member of the Leave campaign, admitted it had been a "mistake" for the Leave campaign to make the pledge.