Health Secretary Matt Hancock has swerved questions from MPs over the recommendation to give NHS workers in England a 1% pay rise.
Junior health minister Helen Whately was sent in his place to respond to an urgent question from Labour.
Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth had demanded Mr Hancock appear in the House of Commons to make a statement on the recommendations.
Peter Stefanovic Tweeted: “Spineless Health Secretary Matt Hancock hasn’t even bothered to turn up to answer urgent questions today on NHS pay, sending Social Care Minister Helen Whately instead”
Spineless Health Secretary Matt Hancock hasn’t even bothered to turn up to answer urgent questions today on NHS pay, sending Social Care Minister Helen Whately instead— Peter Stefanovic (@PeterStefanovi2) March 8, 2021
He said: “I am grateful for the minister (Ms Whately), but where is the Secretary of State?
“Why isn’t the Secretary of State here to defend a Budget that puts up tax for hard-working family and cuts pay for hard-working nurses?
“The Secretary of State has stood at that despatch box repeatedly waxing lyrical, describing NHS staff as heroes, saying they are the very best of us, and now he is cutting nurses’ pay.
“Last summer, when asked by Andrew Marr if nurses deserved a real-terms pay rise, he replied, ‘well, of course, I want to see people properly rewarded, absolutely’ – and yet now he is cutting nurses’ pay.”
Ahead of the urgent question, Downing Street declined to rule out a one-off bonus for NHS workers amid continued anger over the pay recommendation.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have been clear that we think the 1% pay rise is what is affordable.
“I’m not going to comment on speculation. We’ve set out what we think is affordable, it’s now for the pay review body to look at that and look at the other evidence and come forward with their recommendation.”