John McDonnell slaps down Jonathan Ashworth and insists four-day week will apply to NHS

Posted On: 
13th November 2019

Labour splits have burst into the open after John McDonnell dismissed Jonathan Ashworth’s claim that NHS workers will be excluded from the party's plans for a four-day working week.

John McDonnell speaking at The Royal Society of Medicine in London
Credit: 
PA Images

The Shadow Chancellor insisted that “everybody” on a full-time contract would work an average of 32 hours a week within a decade if Labour wins the election.

Earlier, Shadow Health Secretary Mr Ashworth had insisted that health service workers would be exempt from the new rule.

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His comments were in response to Tory claims that introducing a four-day week for the NHS would send the public sector wage will soaring.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Mr Ashworth said it was "nonsense" to suggest those in the health sector would see their hours reduced.

He said: "It’s not happening, there’s not a four-day week coming in the NHS... The idea that the NHS is going to go to a four-day week on December 13 if Labour get in is just for the birds."

However, Mr McDonnell contradicted his frontbench colleague when the pair unveiled Labour's plans for a £26bn NHS cash boost.

Speaking at the Royal Society of Medicine, he said: “It’s a 32 working week, implemented over a ten year period. It will apply to everybody, what Jon was talking about this morning was how you apply it over that ten year period."

When pressed to explain his colleague's comments further, Mr McDonnell said: "What he was saying this morning is he was destroying the myth that suddenly this will be imposed on the NHS on day one of a Labour government."

Quizzed on how Labour could justify the proposal when there is already a shortage of health service staff, he added: “NHS workers work long hours as it is under intense pressure and stress and as we grow our economy and we’re able to afford more investment in public services, we’ll be able to lift some of the pressure off them and give them a chance of a work-life balance that many of them haven’t got at the moment and deserve."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "Corbyn’s Labour need to come clean on their plans to cut the NHS. How can anyone trust them on the NHS when they refuse to be straight with people about such a fundamental issue like the future of our NHS.

"Corbyn’s health spokesman toured the TV studios this morning claiming that their plans for a four-day working week would not apply to the NHS. But now the Shadow Chancellor says it will after all. Voters deserve to know the truth."