MPs rejected an amendment to the Queen’s speech which would have seen the public sector pay cap lifted in a Parliamentary vote on 28 June.
The amendment, put forward by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, called on the government to scrap its pay cap which limits NHS staff’s pay rises to 1% yearly, keeping wages behind inflation for seven years running.
In the House of Commons, shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott introduced the amendment to attendant MPs as going ‘to the heart of current public concerns,’ as it also touched on the need for greater support for emergency services.
She said: ‘My mother was a nurse and I know that the dedication and commitment of our public service workers is about price.
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‘It is one thing for the government to praise public service workers for their bravery and effectiveness but we need to treat them like that every other day.’
Despite words of support for NHS staff expressed publicly by Conservative MPs, the final vote saw the amendment rejected by 323 votes to 309 – votes against winning out by a majority of 14.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: ‘I would say nobody thinks of this as a game. We are serious about what steps we need to take.’
Word from journalists at Westminster and Downing Street throughout the day heard tell of the government considering a lifting of the cap, but this talk was shut down by a press briefing later in the day.
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However, the government has said it will listen to the NHS Pay Review Body’s advice when deciding next steps to take on pay. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it hoped the government would also act on that advice as restrictions to earnings have seen nurses make a real-terms loss worth £3,000 per year since 2010.
RCN chief executive 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.
‘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.
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'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.’