Tory-DUP alliance votes down Labour plan to end NHS pay cuts

The Conservative-DUP alliance voted last night to continue real-terms pay cuts for NHS staff by defeating a Labour bid to lift the 1% cap.

House of Commons: Labour pay amendment defeated (Photo: Ian Bottle)
House of Commons: Labour pay amendment defeated (Photo: Ian Bottle)

The opposition amendment to the Queen’s speech was voted down by 323 to 309 after all 10 DUP MPs filed into the 'no' lobby alongside the Tories.

The vote came just days after the minority government agreed a £1bn spending package for health, education and infrastructure spending in Northern Ireland as part of a deal in return for DUP support in the House of Commons.

The Labour amendment would have lifted the 1% public sector cap and lifted pay as well as forced the government to increase recruitment of police and firefighters.

NHS pay freeze

GP pay rises, in line with the rest of the NHS, have been capped at 1% since 2013/14. NHS pay was frozen for two years before the 1% cap was imposed.

Media reports earlier on Wednesday said that the government was prepared to reconsider the pay cap in the autumn budget. However, later government briefings suggested the policy had not changed and ministers would consider proposals from the independent pay review bodies.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said last week's Queen’s speech had nothing to say about healthcare ‘and no attempt was made to rise to the challenges that our NHS faces’.

‘We have a national health service with waiting lists close to 4m; 26,000 people waiting for more than two months for cancer treatment; 560,000 people waiting on trolleys in corridors; the 18-week target downgraded and abandoned ... and vacancies for 40,000 nurses, for 10,000 GPs and for 3,500 midwives’, he said.

The Queen’s speech, he said, ‘ignored hard-working public sector workers’ who for seven years had ‘been expected to do more and more on less and less’.

NHS recruitment

Mr Ashworth appealed to a number of Conservative MPs who spoke against the pay cap to vote with the opposition parties.

Former GP and health committee chair in the last parliament Dr Sarah Wollaston called for a ‘fair pay settlement’ to address recruitment, retention and morale. She called for cross-party working to find a better funding arrangement for public services.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told MPs that the government would not have been able to increase hospital doctor numbers by 12,000 and nurses by 13,000 ‘if we had not taken difficult decisions on pay’.

‘What I can say is that we will not make our decision on public sector pay until the pay review body has reported,' he said. ‘We will listen to what it says, and to what people in this House have said, before making a final decision.’

Mr Hunt said only the Conservatives could properly fund the NHS by creating a strong economy. ‘By 2014, we had created 2m more jobs and the fastest growth in the G7, and what was our first priority? The NHS. Its budget has gone up by £6bn in real terms since 2014. That is a 7% rise, and it is £2.6bn more than the Labour party promised in 2015.’

Labour MP for Sedgefield Phil Wilson told MPs ‘the crisis in GP provision must be looked at nationally, because it is now starting to affect people who really need that support and help’.

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