NHS trusts and foundation trusts have the freedom to determine the terms and conditions of the staff they employ. As the hon. Lady will be aware, the “Agenda for Change” was negotiated and brought in during 2004 by the then Secretary of State, John Reid, to agree a national framework for pay in the NHS. In general, most trusts support the agreed pay framework and the “Agenda for Change”, and they are likely to continue to use national terms, provided they remain affordable and fit for purpose.
In fairness, a truly national health service demands a national pay scheme, and the British Medical Association has warned that the move to regional pay undermines the ethos of “national” in our national health service. How does the Minister intend to act on that warning?
I remind the hon. Lady that it was the previous Government who set up the current national pay framework in 2004, and that framework has been amended 20 times to support employers over that period. The previous Government gave foundation trusts the freedom to amend those pay terms and conditions. Regional pay does exist in the NHS. On the basis of what she has said, does the hon. Lady wish to remove the London weighting for those workers who live in London? I am sure she would not want to do that because we recognise that it is more expensive to live in certain parts of the country, and workers should be rewarded for that.
The Lib Dem conference rejected regional pay entirely, but not the London weighting, and 25 honourable colleagues endorsed a submission to the pay review body. With that in mind, is it not odd that the south-west consortium remains part of national pay bargaining?
My hon. Friend makes a good point and it is important that we support national pay bargaining where we can. There is an agreement in principle, endorsed by NHS employers, that national pay bargaining is supported throughout the NHS. It was supported throughout the NHS under the previous Government, who set up the “Agenda for Change”, and during their tenure, that agenda remained fit for purpose. Twenty changes during the previous Government’s tenure benefited employees in the NHS, and rightly so. The current Government believe that we must continue to ensure that the system is fit for purpose.
It is most unusual to find the ghost of Christmas past sitting next to the invisible man. The truth is that in May this year, the Deputy Prime Minister stated:
“There is going to be no regional pay system. That is not going to happen.”
Regional pay will strip millions from local NHS services; it will hit the poorest areas of the country hardest, damage front-line NHS care, and there can be no justification for it. Will the Minister categorically rule out continuing with these ruinous proposals—yes or no?
The arguments presented by the hon. Gentleman are fatuous, and the previous Government endorsed regional bandings for London workers. If today he is saying that he does not agree—[Interruption.] You might learn something if you listen. If he is saying that he does not agree with London weighting for London workers, which is a form of regional pay—[Interruption.]
If the hon. Gentleman listens, he may well learn something about what his Government did when they were in power. They endorsed the fact that in the NHS it is important to recognise that we need inducements in some parts of the country to encourage workers to work there. That is why we have central London and outer London weighting. If it was good enough under the previous Government, it should be good enough now.