Jeremy Corbyn has promised free car parking at all NHS hospitals in England if Labour wins the General Election, because charges are “a tax on serious illness”.
The Labour leader pledged to scrap hospital parking charges and cover the lost revenue with an 8% hike in insurance premium tax to 20% for private health insurance products.
The party estimates the tax rise will be enough to cover the £162 million that English hospitals raise annually from car parking charges.
It comes after shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended Labour’s plans to put up taxes for those earning more than £80,000, while saying there was “a lot to learn” from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.
His comments were criticised by the Tories and Liberal Democrats and according to the Telegraph caused angst among some Labour figures.
Announcing Labour’s free-parking plan while visiting nursing students in Tory-held Worcester, Mr Corbyn said: “Labour will end hospital parking charges, which place an unfair and unnecessary burden on families, patients and NHS staff.
“Hospital parking charges are a tax on serious illnesses.
“Our hospitals are struggling from under-funding at the hands of Theresa May’s Conservative government, but the gap should not be filled by charging sick patients, anxious relatives and already hard-pressed NHS staff for an essential service.
“Our NHS needs a Labour government that will stand up for the many, not the few.”
Labour’s policy announcement follows a freedom of information request by the Unison union, which revealed that some hospitals are charging staff, including nurses, nearly £100 a month to park.
The tax hike on private healthcare insurance would raise an additional £377 million, the party estimated.
It would mainly hit corporate employers, who buy 80% of private medical insurance policies, often on behalf of wealthier high-skilled workers, Labour said, citing research from healthcare consultants LaingBuisson.