Ed Miliband has pledged that a future Labour government would guarantee that NHS patients in England will wait no longer than one week for cancer tests and results by 2020.

Labour says that the cancer test guarantee will be made possible by £750 million new investment over five years, matched by revenue raised through a new levy on tobacco firms “which make huge profits on the back of ill-health”. Speaking to The Times, Mr Miliband said it is “critical that we improve early diagnosis of cancer - a killer disease that one in three of us will get -  so that we can match the best countries in the world for surviving it”.

He added that it is a plan “paid for by money raised from the profits of the tobacco firms whose products have done so much to cause cancer in the first place”. Labour argues that delays in getting cancer tests are increasing, with the number waiting more than six weeks for key tests used to diagnose cancer up from 1,900 in May 2010 to over 10,600 in August 2014.

The party, which says that early detection which would save 10,000 lives a year, claims that there has been a £790 million real-terms cut in spending on cancer services so far over the course of this Parliament, with spending in 2012/13 being £230 million lower than spending in 2009/10.

The cancer test cash will come out of Labour’s proposed £2.5 billion Time to Care Fund unveiled at the Labour conference in Manchester last month. Other than cash from tobacco firms, the scheme would be financed by a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million and tax from hedge funds “which avoid paying their fair share”.