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Confusion as Boris Johnson refuses to commit to ally Matt Hancock’s public sector pay boost claim

2 min read

Boris Johnson has refused to commit to boosting public sector pay if he becomes Prime Minister, despite key campaign ally Matt Hancock announcing it as a policy on his behalf.

The Health Secretary told The Times that the Tory leadership frontrunner would "show the public sector some love" if he takes over from Theresa May.

”People in the public sector need to be properly rewarded for the brilliant job they do,” he told the paper.

“Higher pay, not higher taxes, means a pay rise for everyone, including in the public sector.”

But Mr Johnson later refused to echo the pledge when pressed several times by the Press Association, responding only by saying “you need to have decent pay in the public sector”.

Speaking on a visit to a garden centre in Essex, he said: "Of course he’s right, we are going to make sure that we properly fund our public services.

“It’s very important when you’re in charge of a great public service, whether it’s the police or transport, you’ve got to make sure – or local government – you’ve got to make sure that you understand their cares and their needs.

“And the only way to get the reform that you sometimes need in public services is to be their champion.”

Public sector pay was frozen for two years as part of David Cameron's austerity programme, with annual rises later capped at 1%.

Mr Johnson's comments came after he and leadership rival Jeremy Hunt were criticised by Philip Hammond for pledging a long list of spending commitments, while refusing to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

In a tweet, the Chancellor said: "The 'fiscal firepower' we have built up in case of a No-Deal Brexit will only be available for extra spending if we leave with an orderly transition.

"If not, it will all be needed to plug the hole a No Deal Brexit will make in the public finances."

Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd, said of Mr Johnson's comments: “Boris Johnson’s two faces have been exposed once again.

“He’ll say anything to further his own career but has repeatedly proven that his word can’t be trusted.

“Our dedicated public sector workers deserve a pay rise after years of the Conservatives cutting their incomes. This backtrack is an insult.”

Mr Johnson has pledged to cut taxes for higher earners, while his successor in the job has promised to spend £20bn to soften the economic impact of no-deal.

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