UK Politics

Tax-funded NHS a Ponzi scheme, says minister Phillip Lee

A hospital Image copyright PA

A minister has questioned how much longer working-age people can be asked to pay taxes for health and social care they may not benefit from.

Justice Minister Phillip Lee, a former GP, said the welfare state was a "Ponzi scheme" that was "about to collapse".

By the time working people reached the age where they had to rely on them, these services may no longer exist, he told a Tory conference fringe meeting.

He said a better funding model may be to tax assets rather than work.

The minister said Britain's economy and society were currently "set up for the over-65s and against the under-40s," and the Conservatives had to find a way to change that.

"You have to ask yourself the question, when confronted by significant liabilities that we currently can't meet: do we tax work or do we levy assets?

"It ain't more complicated than that, really. So, we have to find a way," he told the Social Market Foundation/Opinium fringe meeting.

Image copyright Conservative Party
Image caption Phillip Lee says the Conservatives have got to target younger voters

The Bracknell MP told the meeting how he had clashed with George Osborne in 2015 after he described the then chancellor's pensioner bond scheme as "intergenerational theft" designed to woo older voters at the expense of younger people.

He suggested it was not fair to tell the under-44s who were "struggling" with a family: "'Oh, by the way, we're also going to tax you even more because this Ponzi scheme that we've had in play for pensions and for healthcare and for social care for the past 30 years is about to collapse. So therefore we want you to work really, really hard, but when you get to 65, it's not going to be there.' Hands up who thinks that's a really compelling narrative?"

Named after Italian fraudster Charles Ponzi, a Ponzi scheme promises high returns for investors but in fact generates those returns using money from new investors.

Eventually, there is not enough money to go round and the scheme collapses.

They are sometimes known as "pyramid schemes".

Mr Lee was asked to clarify his comments at another conference fringe event later on Monday.

"I continue to work in the NHS, I am supportive of the NHS, I want fantastic healthcare for everybody at their time of need to be delivered," he said.

"But in the context of questions I was being asked, I was pointing out that young people need to know that the society they're supporting in work is going to be there for them at the end."