NHS Pay

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 13th September 2017.

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Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 4:11 pm, 13th September 2017

I will come to that point in a minute.

In the election, Labour promised to end the public sector pay cap and to free the pay review bodies to do their work properly without the artificial encumbrance of a 1% cap. Meanwhile, the Tories have spent the period since the election putting the heads of public sector workers in a spin—will they or won’t they. Yesterday, No. 10 was briefing that the pay cap was over. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury was on the radio announcing derisory offers to police and prison staff, rather than coming to this House to explain what was going on. We had to have this debate today to get the Government here to explain their actions. Members on the Government Front Bench would do well to remember these words of wisdom:

“It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”

We will hold them to that. When the reality of this supposed U-turn emerged, there was nothing tangible. In the case of the police, it was just an unconsolidated 1% bonus on top of what they were due to get. Prison officers were offered just 1.7%. In effect, less than 4% of public sector workers were covered by the proposals announced yesterday. In the meantime, the other 96% can whistle. The nasty party simply cannot help itself. What is its tactic? It is the same old one, regurgitated time and again, of divide and rule. As ever, it tries to pit one group of workers against the other—the public sector against the private sector, doctor against manager, admin against manual workers, British workers against foreign workers, and the north against the south. Yes, it is the same old hackneyed tactic, but this time it has not worked. If the Government had focused on dealing with this matter and on sorting out the tax dodgers, we might not have been in this situation in the first place.

This is over. Even as the Government conceded the need for a thaw in the pay cap, Tory Front-Bench Members were briefing the media to raise the issue of wonderful contracts and pensions in the public sector. The Prime Minister attacked our public servants for having progression pay as they gain experience. The Government just could not accept that fairness required a change in direction. They still had to have that streak of resentment when they were announcing the policy change. As Anne Bronte said:

“There is always a ‘but’
in this imperfect world”.

With the Tories, it is always an industrial-sized ‘but’, visible from space.

The police and prison officers will have to pay for their pay rise themselves. There is no new money and no new resource. It is an announcement without substance. If and when the public sector pay cap is lifted across the rest of the public sector—namely the other 96% I referred to earlier and, in particular, the NHS—will the Minister be asking them to pay for their own pay rise by sacking more NHS staff? Will she provide new resources? Does she expect waiting times to get longer, and operations to be delayed or deferred? Who will be first on the sacking list—the porter, the radiographer, the medical secretary, the nurse, the doctor or an allied professional? Perhaps none of these redundancies will be needed because jobs in nursing, medicine and other allied health professions cannot be filled in large parts of the country.

This is a betrayal of public sector workers and it has to end. The Tories do have something in common with nurses and doctors, but for wholly different reasons. Nurses and doctors in the medical profession stitch people up for the benefit of the patient. The Tories stitch people up for their own benefit.