Starmer says Johnson 'clapped for carers then shut the door in their faces'

Keir Starmer says Boris Johnson ‘clapped for carers then shut the door in their face’ over NHS pay

Labour leader calls for Commons vote on health care workers’ pay

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 10 March 2021 13:18

Sir Keir Starmer has called for a Commons vote NHS pay proposals, as he claimed Boris Johnson clapped for carers during the coronavirus pandemic “then shut the door in their face”.

The remarks came after ministers provoked fury from unions and opposition MPs after revealing they were proposing only a 1 per cent pay rise for health care workers — despite an expectation from health bosses it would be 2.1 per cent.

Speaking during prime minister’s questions, the Labour leader raised the issue which has caused unease among backbench Tory MPs, and accused Mr Johnson of “breaking promise after promise”.

As he warned that health care workers were facing a real-terms cut due to rising inflation, a Labour analysis suggested that since 2010 the starting salary for nurses, physiotherapists, radiographers and numerous other NHS roles has fallen by £841 per year in real terms.

“When I clapped for carers I meant it,” Sir Keir said. “He clapped for carers then he shut the door in their face at the first opportunity.”

Referring to a pay-rise last year for the prime minister’s senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, before he resigned his post, he went on: “A 1 per cent rise versus 1.7 per cent inflation rise, that is a real-terms cut, and if the prime minister doesn’t understand that, we really are in trouble.

“They can afford to give Dominic Cummings a 40 per cent pay rise, and they can’t afford to reward the NHS properly.

“The mask really is slipping, and we can see what the Conservative Party now stands for: cutting pay for nurses, putting taxes up for families.He’s had the opportunity to change course, but he’s refused.

“So if he’s so determined to cut NHS pay, will he at least show some courage and put it to a vote in Parliament?”

But Mr Johnson repeatedly claimed a pay increase would be delivered for NHS workers, and defended his government’s spending record. Hinting at possible future U-turn on the issue, he said the government would wait to see what the independent pay review body reports back.

Mr Johnson added: “The last time we put it to a vote, he [Mr Starmer] voted against it.“

Moments after prime minister’s questions, however, the shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused Mr Johnson of misleading MPs by suggesting Labour had voted against the NHS Funding Bill last year.

He told MPs: "The prime minister twice from that despatch box said that the Labour opposition voted against the NHS Funding Bill and the 2.1 per cent increase for NHS staff – this is not the case.

"Indeed, in the debate, as Hansard will show, I was explicit that we would not be dividing the House. So can you, Mr Speaker, use your good office to get the prime minister to return to the House and correct the record.

Giving evidence on Tuesday, Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS, told MPs that when the NHS long-term plan was published, the financial assumptions underpinning it showed a pay rise higher than the one proposed by ministers last week of 1 per cent.

He acknowledged things had changed since 2019 but said: “At the time, the working assumption was that there would be available 2.1 per cent for the costs of the Agenda for Change pay group in 2021-22, together with the overhang from the 2021 elements of the multi-year Agenda for Change pay deal.”

“In a publicly funded, democratically accountable health service, the government of the day gets to decide what NHS pay should be, but you would expect me as the head of the health service to obviously want to see properly rewarded NHS staff, particularly given everything that the service has been through, and they’ve been through, over the course of the last year.”

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