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National Pay Agreements

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

5. What estimate he has made of the number of foundation trusts considering plans to opt out of NHS national pay agreements. (129938)

The previous Labour Government gave foundation hospitals additional freedoms to set their own pay terms and conditions for staff and, as a result, the information is held locally, not centrally.

I thank the Minister for that non-answer. Will he recognise that with average wages 6.8% lower for full-time workers than they were when this Government took office, people are right to be sceptical about the Government’s record in pay? Why is he sitting back and doing nothing while the national character of our health service is being destroyed through regional pay arrangements?

It is worth reminding the hon. Gentleman that, as I outlined in my first answer, it was the previous Government who gave foundation trusts additional freedoms to set their own pay terms and conditions outside national frameworks. This Government are working closely with NHS employers and the trade unions to make sure that we maintain “Agenda for Change” and national pay frameworks as fit for purpose, and we are very pleased with that. If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask why there is regional pay and freedoms for employers to set regional pay, he should ask those on his own Front Bench, some of whom were Ministers when these freedoms were set.

Does the Minister recognise that the recent progress in national negotiations over greater flexibility is very encouraging and makes the efforts of the south west consortium and others both disruptive and pointless, in context?

We have had encouraging results from national pay negotiations at the recent NHS Staff Council, and unions are to consult their members on those results. There is general agreement that we need to maintain national pay frameworks, provided they are fit for purpose. I hope my hon. Friend will find that the south west pay consortium, which has been somewhat heavy-handed in the way that it has conducted its affairs, also sees the benefit of maintaining national pay frameworks. That is why we would like to see a quick resolution of the matter at a national level.