Fire and rescue professionals work tirelessly to protect their communities. Currently, the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services is responsible for negotiating the pay and conditions of fire and rescue authority employees, and central Government have no direct role in this process. The Home Office will be launching a consultative White Paper on fire reform later this year.
This Government should salute the courageous men and women of the fire and rescue service, who are the envy of the world, not constantly attack them. It is universally recognised that trade union membership and collective bargaining rights for workers are among the most effective ways to reduce inequality. “Brexit will not be used to reduce labour standards” was the constant cry from Government Ministers. Prove it, Home Secretary. Commitment after commitment has been given to protect and promote collective bargaining. Deliver it, Home Secretary. Stand by your word and confirm that the collective bargaining rights of firefighters within their chosen trade union will not be diminished in any way.
The hon. Gentleman has a long association with the trade union movement, which I know he has found rewarding in every sense of the word. As I said, we are not, as a Government, involved in pay bargaining for the fire service. There is a national joint council, where the Fire Brigades Union is represented 50:50 with employers. As I am sure he will know, the FBU has accepted a pay offer for the coming year that will be payable from the 1st of this month. There will be a White Paper looking at reform in the future and we will see what comes out of that consultative process.
I do not think it is on good terms for the Minister to be sneaky in the way that he approached the answer. The underhand in there was a bit leading and I hope that we have a better relationship on all sides of this House.
Thank you for that.