Wednesday 14 April 2021 / 12:58 PM NHS

Labour introduces Bill to force Secretary of State to report to parliament on NHS pay

In a Ten Minute Rule Motion today, Carolyn Harris, Parliamentary Private Secretary to Keir Starmer, introduced a Bill to require the Secretary of State to report on any proposals for a pay increase for NHS staff below 2.1 per cent, giving MPs the opportunity to properly scrutinise the proposals on NHS pay.

The new Bill comes as part of Labour’s efforts to force ministers to abandon their real terms pay cut for NHS staff and deliver a proper pay rise.

Introducing the Bill, Carolyn Harris MP, said:

“Nurses pay has been falling in real terms since the Conservatives came to power 11-years ago – with pay awards consistently lagging behind inflation.

“Already this is unacceptable, but in the current situation, the Government’s proposal to reduce this even further shows a complete lack of respect and gratitude.

“Our NHS staff have not faltered since the start of the pandemic and they deserve to be rewarded for that.”

 

Full text of the speech:

***CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY***

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report on any proposal to award NHS staff a pay rise for 2021/22 below 2.1 per cent; to require the Secretary of State to move a House of Commons motion to approve any such report; and for connected purposes.

The last thirteen months have impacted all of our lives – illness, bereavement and financial worries on top of learning to live with the fear of the pandemic and the limits on our freedoms. We haven’t all faced the same level of difficulties, but none of us have escaped without our lives being in some way changed by the experience.

127,000 people have tragically lost their lives – one of the highest death tolls in Europe. And in the past year over 450,000 have been hospitalised due to severe Covid symptoms.

For every one of those people, it has been our amazing NHS frontline staff that have cared for them, fought for them and either celebrated their recovery or held their hands as they have taken their last breath.

Our NHS heroes have kept this country going – risking their own health, isolating from their own families, working harder than ever, grieving the lives they couldn’t save and comforting the bereaved.

They are the very best of Britain and they deserve to be given the credit and the reward for everything that they have done and everything they have sacrificed to keep the rest of us safe.

Nurses and NHS Staff were promised at least a 2.1 per cent pay increase but the Government has now retracted that – and recommended 1 per cent for all NHS staff with the exception of junior doctors, GPs and dentists.

The Government pretend this a rise.

They’re fooling no-one.

With inflation forecast to reach 1.7 per cent this year our NHS staff, who have shown nothing but commitment this last year, are now set to receive a real-term pay cut.

Nurses pay has been falling in real terms since the Conservatives came to power, 11-years ago – with pay awards consistently lagging behind inflation.

Already this is unacceptable, but in the current situation, the Government’s proposal to reduce this even further shows a complete lack of respect and gratitude.

For me, the thought of looking a nurse in the eye and telling them that they are worth less this year than they were before the pandemic is outrageously insulting. All of us across this House stood on our doorsteps and clapped for our keyworkers.

We all took to social media to thank NHS staff and tell them what a wonderful job they were doing. We would have all been indebted to them if we had got sick and needed hospital care to help us battle this undiscriminating virus – in fact some on these benches are.

So, was it just for show?  Were the warm words and platitudes just a tick box exercise?  Or do the Prime Minister and his government, hand on heart, believe a rule-breaking, unapologetic aide is worth considerably more than the hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who have worked tirelessly and selflessly to battle this viral enemy and save lives?

The promise was quite clear – a 2.1 per cent increase, as a minimum, not dependent on inflation rates or any other economic struggles. And that promise has been broken in yet another ill-judged u-turn by the Government.

If the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues have now rescinded that offer and replaced it with an inferior one, then they need to come to this House with the revised recommendation and put it to a vote.

When Members on this side of the House clapped on a Thursday evening and pledged our support to the NHS heroes in our constituencies and across the country, we meant it.  And we still mean it.

They have held up their side of the bargain – working diligently and doing everything in their power to save lives – now it’s our turn to hold up ours by voting in favour of a fair, long-term pay deal that reflects their commitment.

A recent survey by the Royal College of Nursing concluded that more than a third of the 42,000 who submitted responses were considering leaving the NHS because they felt under-valued. These are staff who are exhausted from their efforts over the last year.

They have worked unpaid overtime, they have forfeited their own mental wellbeing and they have, far too often, put all of our families ahead of their own. The least they expected in return was recognition and fairness but from a government that has consistently failed to deliver on both, it appears they were expecting too much.

We are on a cliff-edge here.

We know already that we entered the pandemic with a record 100,000 vacancies across the NHS. If we don’t pay staff what they deserve then we will struggle to retain those we have let alone fill the vacancies. Even the 2.1 per cent in the Long Term Plan was a minimum, and a cautious one at that. One per cent is not a pay rise – it is an insult.

Trade Unions and Professional Bodies are all calling for improved pay offers at varying levels. They know a fair pay rise would also help boost staff recruitment and retention.

A 1 per cent pay rise for an experienced nurse equates to just £3.50 a week.

£3.50 for a year of unpaid overtime, unwavering commitment and personal sacrifice.

£3.50 for a year of turmoil – of fighting a virus that at times seemed unbeatable, of watching patients die despite doing everything they could to save them, of having to keep on going when they were beyond exhausted.

On this side of the House we believe our NHS are worth so much more.

With this Bill the Government will be required to present their recommendations for anything below the already approved minimum increase of 2.1 per cent and seek agreement, from the House, of any new proposal.

That is the least our NHS deserves.

Our NHS staff have not faltered since the start of the pandemic and they deserve to be rewarded for that. Unions and stakeholders know it, the public know it, and on this side of the House, we know it too.