NHS Pay

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:06 pm on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Kwarteng Conservative, Spelthorne 3:06 pm, 13th September 2017

It is a great honour to have been called in this serious debate. I am pleased by the way in which it has been conducted, as we have heard some very good speeches, in particular the maiden speech by Stephen Morgan. It was an amusing, entertaining, heartfelt and serious speech, and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will make valuable contributions in this Parliament and in years to come. It was a salutary speech because it gave one faith in the House of Commons.

Having been a Member for seven years, I have seen many debates—and some yah-boo politics—in which people apportioned blame for the crisis. Labour says that the Tories cut too much and that it was all the bankers’ fault that we had a deficit of £160 billion—the largest peace-time deficit in our history. Norman Lamb, who was a Front-Bench member of the coalition Government for their full five years, will remember clearly the context in which we came up with the difficult policy of the pay cap. It was not a whimsy, and we did not do it for the hell of it to put people under pressure. The pay cap was a serious response to a difficult and chronic problem—the deficit.

I do not want to apportion blame, and I echo my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in recognising that the global crash was not entirely Labour’s fault—I am willing to give it that—but the history of the public finances from 2001, eight years before the financial crisis happened, shows that we ran a deficit in every single one of those years. To borrow a phrase—a mantra—from a departed colleague, Labour did not fix the roof while the sun was shining. The Labour party had a record of fiscal incompetence, and it was against that backdrop that public sector pay restraint became an issue. It is important to look at the history to explain why the pay cap was instituted in 2011.