Boris Johnson hints at U-turn on 1% NHS pay rise saying nurses could be treated ‘exceptionally’ as Keir Starmer berates him at PMQs swiping that Dominic Cummings got 40%
- Boris Johnson berated by Keir Starmer over NHS pay at a bruising PMQs session
- Labour leader complained at ‘real terms cut’ after the coronavirus pandemic
- Mr Johnson said Tories ‘party of NHS’ and suggest ‘exceptional’ deal for nurses
Mr Johnson wriggled as he was berated by Labour’s Keir Starmer during a tetchy PMQs session, with the Labour leader comparing the proposed 1 per cent for health staff to the 40 per cent hike for ex-aide Dominic Cummings.
Sir Keir demanded that MPs be given a vote on the ‘real-terms cut’.
Unions have threatened strikes over the ‘insulting’ increase while Tories are restive.
Ministers have so far argued that the bump is all the country can afford with coronavirus sending national debt soaring towards £2.8trillion, and pointed out that the rest of the public sector is facing a freeze.
But the premier fuelled speculation of a shift this afternoon by stressing that the pay review body will consider the evidence.
‘Of course we will look at what the independent pay review body has to say exceptionally about the nursing profession for whom we particularly value,’ he told MPs.
Boris Johnson wriggled as he was berated by Labour’s Keir Starmer during a tetchy PMQs session
NHS workers staged protests over the pay move outside Downing Street at the weekend
Sir Keir accused Mr Johnson of clapping for carers last year before choosing to ‘shut the door in their face at the first opportunity’ via the 1% pay rise.
The Labour leader told the Commons: ‘There are currently 40,000 nursing vacancies and 7,000 doctors vacancies. How on Earth does he think a pay cut will solve that?
‘Frankly, I’d take the Prime Minister a bit more seriously if he hadn’t spent £2.6million of taxpayers’ money on a Downing Street TV studio or £200,000 on new wallpaper for his flat.
‘They say charity starts at home but I think the Prime Minister is taking it a bit too literally.’
But Mr Johnson denied that staff will be ‘hundreds of pounds worse off a year’ because of the Budget moves, and insisted the Conservatives are the ‘party of the NHS’.
‘We’re increasing pay for nurses, we’re massively increasing our investment in the NHS,’ he said.
‘We’re steering a steady course, whereas he weaves and wobbles from one week to the next.’
Sir Keir questioned whether Mr Johnson thought NHS workers or Mr Cummings – who dramatically left government before Christmas – are more deserving of a pay rise.
Mr Johnson said: ‘We owe a massive debt as a society and I personally to the nurses of our NHS.
‘And that is why we’ve asked the public sector pay review body exceptionally to look at their pay.
‘I want to stress, however, as the House knows, that starting salaries for nurses have gone up by 12.8 per cent over the last three years and it is thanks to the package that this Government has put in place that we now have 10,600 more nurses in our NHS than there were one year ago and 60,000 more in training.’
In spite of a swathe of revenue-raising measures in the Budget, national debt is set hit an eye-watering £2.747trillion in 2023-4, equivalent to a peak of 109.7 per cent of GDP