MP vote on policy amendment to lift nurse pay cap

MPs debated Labour Party amendment to the Queen's Speech to lift the public sector pay cap.

MPs tonight (28 June) rejected an attempt by the Labour Party to lift the public sector pay cap in a move labelled 'bitterly disappointing' by the RCN

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn and Labour frontbench MPs wore RCN Scrap the Cap badges during
Prime Minister's Questions on 28 June. Picture: PA

Politicians voted down Labour's proposed amendment to the Queen's Speech to remove the 1% pay cap for nurses and other public sector staff.

The vote comes a day after RCN nurses demonstrated outside government buildings and hospitals across England and Scotland.

Responding, RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'This is a bitter disappointment for nurses and others in the public sector. At lunchtime, there were signs the government was listening to our calls, but by the evening they voted to keep the pay cap in place. Our members’ "summer of protest" campaign continues.

'But we also know that a growing number on the government’s own benches agree the cap should be scrapped. We will continue to build cross-party support this summer. If the prime minister intends to address pay in an autumn Budget, she should do so without delay.'

Public sector pay review?

Ms Davies was referring to reports earlier in the day that public sector pay was under review following the election and the outcome would be heard at the autumn Budget.

'It is welcome that the government has said it will listen to the pay review body’s evidence but they must also act on it. The RCN will play its part in showing ministers how they can address the real-terms loss of earnings – worth £3,000 a year – since 2010.'

But Unison told Nursing Standard that it 'waited with bated breath for the open remit letter', pointing out that the pay review body has a 'restricted mandate' and it would be 'disingenous' to suggest otherwise.

The amendment to lift the pay cap was tabled by shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

'As we have seen in recent months in terms of national and personal crises, it is to public sector workers the nation turns to,' Ms Abbott said.

Dedication and commitment

She said NHS staff had come into hospitals, unasked, to assist during the Westminster Bridge, London Bridge, Manchester and Finsbury Park terrorist attacks.

'My mother was a nurse and I know that the dedication and commitment of public sector workers is above price,' she said.

Ms Abbott said that rather than MPs praising nurses and other workers at times of crisis, they should be recognised every day through better pay.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt said whichever party is in power had to do the right thing for the economy.

'People will recognise that in the very difficult period we have just had, it would never have been possible to increase the number of doctors by nearly 12,000 and number of nurses on our wards by nearly 13,000, if we hadn't taken difficult decisions on pay.

'We will not make our decision on public sector pay until the pay review body has reported. And we will listen to what they say and we will listen to what people in this house have said before making a decision.'

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said public sector workers deserved 'a lot better', adding 'this is a self-defeating policy.'

Long-term costs

Many Labour MPs spoke during the debate about the effects of the pay cap and previous pay freezes endured by nurses.

Former Labour home secretary Yvette Cooper mentioned NHS recruitment problems and said the public sector pay cap cost more in the long run.

After the debate, Ms Davies again highlighted the human cost of the pay cap.

'The pay cap stands in the way of filling the 40,000 vacant nurse posts in England. When NHS and care services are short of safe staffing, patients pay a heavy price,' she said.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his party's frontbench MPs wore RCN Scrap the Cap badges during Prime Minister's Questions.

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