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Speaker “Far From Happy” With Government Over Commons Snub On NHS Pay Announcement

Speaker “Far From Happy” With Government Over Commons Snub On NHS Pay Announcement

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he was “far from happy” that the major announcement was made via a press release (Parliamentlive.tv)

4 min read

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has criticised the government after health minister Helen Whately failed to announce details of the NHS pay deal in her statement on Wednesday.

He said he was “far from happy” that the major announcement was not mentioned in the Commons yesterday, only to be confirmed via a press release a few hours later.

“I find it hard to believe that any negotiations were still going beyond that time. I’d urge the Government again to ensure the House is the first, not the last, to know,” Hoyle said. 

“It's not my fault when the Secretary of State got pinged, but if he does want to make announcements from his garden somebody could have been there, or the ministers could have shared that information with us.”

NHS workers have been offered a 3% pay rise by the government, a move which has angered many staff and unions who have long called for a greater increase to match the expected inflation rise of 4% predicted by the Bank of England.

Health secretary Sajid Javid was not able to make the announcement in person in the Commons as he is currently self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus. It was widely expected health minister Helen Whately would annouce it in his absence. 

The Speaker’s intervention came before a Covid-19 update by vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, who apologised to the Speaker for the incident prior to his statement. 

“Can I offer the apology of the Secretary of State and the Department of Health on the inability of the department to make a statement on the acceptance of the independent peer review body — that NHS staff should get three percent,” Zahawi said. 

Hoyle responded: “I really do appreciate that the minister is so courteous.”

But he pointed out that it was still unacceptable that Whately told the Commons she couldn’t update MPs on the pay deal, describing it as “worrying”.

Zahawi thanked him for his “very powerful point”, and went on to thank the Speaker for his efforts and the efforts of parliamentary staff in supporting the operation of hybrid proceedings.

“Over the past few months, the fact that we've kept our democracy, running, and running safely. At this time of crisis is an incredible achievement, and we're all extremely grateful to you and your team.”

The vaccines minister used his statement to reveal that NHS data had found nine in 10 adults now have Covid-19 antibodies, either via vaccination or acquired immunity. 

But he warned that “there are still many people who are unprotected”, with 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds still unvaccinated. 

“I'd like to, once again, ahead of the summer recess, urge everyone to come forward and get both doses to protect yourself, protect your loved ones and your community. 

“Our battle against this virus is not the kind of battle where we can simply declare victory, and move on with our lives. Instead, we must learn to live with the virus, doing whatever we can to slow it’s spread.”

He also defended plans to bring in vaccination passports in large venues and high-risk settings such as nightclubs. 

"Although we don't encourage its use in essential settings like supermarkets, other businesses and organisations in England can adopt the pass as a means of entry where it is suitable for their venue or premises when they can see its potential to keep their clients or their customers safe," Zahawi said. 

"For proprietors of venues and events where large numbers are likely to gather and likely to mix with people from outside their households for prolonged periods, deploying the pass is the right thing to do."

He added: "The pass has an important role to play in slowing the spread of the virus and so we reserve the right to mandate its use in the future."
 

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