Tory MPs In Backlash Against NHS Pay Plan As They Urge Ministers To Do "Everything They Can" To Boost Offer
Several Tory MPs have joined growing calls for a u-turn over the pay plans
Ministers are facing growing calls from their own party's MPs to u-turn on their controversial plans to offer NHS staff a 1% pay rise.
A number of senior Conservative MPs have publicly urged the government to "go further" with their offer to NHS staff following a furious backlash from unions and health service workers.
It came after Labour secured an urgent question in the Commons to raise the issue after they claimed the pay proposal would result in a real-terms pay cut for over one million NHS staff if inflation hit 1.5% as predicted.
Both Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock have defended the proposals, which were submitted to the independent NHS pay review board earlier this month, claiming the rise was the only "affordable" option.
But speaking in the Commons on Monday, former Tory minister Andrew Percy urged the government to "open up discussions with the Treasury to look at what more we can do for our NHS staff".
"Be that a one off payment, be it other support - just giving people more rest and recuperation time," he said. "And we should do everything we can and make every effort we can to go further than what has been recommended."
And fellow Conservative MP Steve Brine said the government should have a "grown up conversation" about the pay packets of those earning the least in the NHS.
"Would [the government] agree the elephant in the room here is not pay across the board but low pay in the NHS?" he asked.
"Even a 10% rise on not very much is not very much. Don't we really need a grown-up conversation about what we pay those who do some of the least glamorous jobs across health and social care day-in-day-out every single year?"
Meanwhile, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt questioned the government's proposals, saying MPs had already voted through a long-term funding plans for the NHS which had "budgeted" for a 2.1% in salaries.
But junior health minister Helen Whately denied the figure was linked to the current row, saying it was "that figure covers not only this pay rise that we're discussing for the NHS workforce but also the pay deals that have been agreed for staff who are on other multi-year pay deals, on pay progression that will happen and also other investment in the workforce."
The backlash comes after a furious response from unions, with the Royal College of Nursing ramping up the pressure on ministers after suggesting they could ballot their members for strike action unless the pay offer is reconsidered.
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth hit out at Matt Hancock for missing the debate, instead sending junior health minister Helen Whately in his place.
He said: "I am grateful for the minister, but where is the Secretary of State? Why isn't the Secretary of State here to defend a Budget that puts up tax for hardworking families and cuts pay for hardworking nurses?
And he said Hancock had appeared in the Commons "repeatedly waxing lyrical, describing NHS staff as heroes, saying they are the very best of us, and now he is cutting nurses' pay.
"Last summer, when asked by Andrew Marr is nurses deserved a real-terms pay rise, he replied:'Well of course, I want to see people properly awarded, absolutely' - and yet now he is cutting nurses' pay."
But the minister defended her appearance in place of Hancock, saying: "I would actually say that I wonder why, this International Women's Day, it is a shame that he hasn't got a female colleague at the despatch box on his side this afternoon."