Remember this summer, not long after the General Election Theresa May called so that Britain could enjoy a “strong and stable” Government, just a fortnight after firefighters had fought to save the residents of Grenfell Tower, the PM survived the first test of her slim minority government, defeating a Labour Party amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for an end to the 1% pay cap for emergency and public services by 323 to 309 votes.
Northern Ireland’s 10 DUP MP’s – despite speaking out against austerity before the election – agreed to vote with Conservative MP’s to give Theresa May the majority she needed to stop firefighters, police, medics and other public servants having a rise on their pay capped since 2010. (The June 28 vote was also not long after Theresa May had agreed a £1.5billion bung to Northern Ireland.)
Today – just two and a half months later – the Government far from “strong and stable” was forced to concede a humiliating defeat to a Labour motion calling for an end to a punishing NHS pay cap that has seen real term pay plunging for public servants for the past seven years.
After DUP MP Ian Paisley had showed support for the motion, the Tories were forced to concede defeat this afternoon and did not put the Labour motion to a vote they could have faced losing.
As Westminster reporters struggled to keep up with the growing series of U-turns, lies and conflicting statements from the Tory front bench, Theresa May’s day went from bad to worse.
First she had promised an eye-wateringly ungenerous 1% rise (plus a 1% bonus) for police and 1.7% for beleaguered prison officers. Both rises were meant to be funded from existing budget, leaving medics, teachers and other public servants still facing real term declines in pay, and unions accusing the PM of “divide and rule.”
Then Theresa May – in an unprecedented intervention – was called out by the Police Federation for lying to parliament when arguing with Jeremy Corbyn she insisted that police weren’t still facing a real term decline in pay.
Then after Ian Paisley said “I must say that myself and my colleagues are minded to support the motion”, the Tories faced losing their Commons majority and reluctantly let the Labour motion that NHS workers get a “fair pay rise” pass unopposed.
This is a humiliating climb-down for Theresa May, who at the start of the summer told a nurse on BBC Question Time that there is “no magic money tree” for a pay rise to stop nurses having to turn to food banks and pay day loans in the run up to her snap election, (before agreeing to part with £1.5billion in return for DUP support.)
Parliament also saw a weakened Government admit this afternoon that the June general election Theresa May called cost the taxpayer £141m. In a Commons written statement, Cabinet Office minister Chris Skidmore admitted that mail shots cost £43m and administering the election cost £98m.
Earlier in the day, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had labelled the opposition motion for fair pay for NHS staff “bogus.”
“That is why this afternoon’s motion is so bogus because the difference between this side of the House and that side of the House is not about a desire to invest in public services, it is the ability to deliver a strong economy so that we can make that investment,” insisted Hunt.
But his opposition counterpart had the last word, pointing out that the Government were now too weak to put up a fight over NHS pay.
“Is it now clear that the House has been unanimous in saying we should end the pay cap in the NHS and give health workers a fair pay rise?” asked Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth.
“And is it also now clear that the reason the Government did not divide on this motion is because they knew they would lose?”
The House of Commons had heard how public servants such as nurses were struggling to get by, forced to take second jobs, even resorting to food banks.
“Nurses turning to food banks, pawning their possessions, even being issued with eviction notices,” said Jonathan Ashworth, – “isn’t that shameful in 21st century Britain, and what a depressing consequence of Tory economics.”
The result of the Conservatives conceding defeat is not binding for Jeremy Hunt, but it is another U-turn for Theresa May, and another victory for Jeremy Corbyn who is continuing to champion fair pay for Britain’s 5 million emergency services and public sector staff.
Opposition Day Debate: NHS Pay Jonathan Ashworth for the Labour Party vs Jeremy Hunt of the Conservatives#NHS #NHSPayCap #COnservatives #Labour #UKParliament
Posted by Parliament Today UK on Wednesday, 13 September 2017