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NHS South-West Pay, Terms and Conditions Consortium

Volume 554: debated on Tuesday 27 November 2012

11. What contact there has been between his Department and the director of the NHS south-west pay, terms and conditions consortium. (129945)

Since the south-west consortium’s plans were made public in May this year, Department of Health officials have been in contact with NHS employers, NHS trade unions and the south-west consortium better to understand the views of all parties. The Department of Health wants to find a resolution and supports national pay awards.

I thank the Minister for that response and for his acknowledgement earlier that the way in which the south-west consortium has handled the negotiations has been heavy-handed. It is appalling that staff found out about the plans only through the leaks as, it appears, did the Department. Will he go back to the director of the consortium and urge him to put everything on hold in the south-west while national pay discussions are continuing? As the Minister says, this ought to be about national pay, not regional pay.

I fully agree with the hon. Lady and I take her concerns on board. However, because of the additional freedoms introduced by the previous Government, local employers in foundation trusts throughout the NHS have additional freedoms to set their own pay, terms and conditions. Under the rules introduced by the previous Government, it is impossible for us to intervene directly in the matter, except by continuing to encourage trade unions and NHS employers to meet the national agreements. If national terms and conditions are agreed to, I am sure that they will be endorsed at a regional level by the south-west consortium.

I am very pleased that the Minister will be meeting a cross-party delegation of MPs from the south-west next week to discuss this issue. In view of his answer to the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), is he confirming that Health Ministers have no powers at all to intervene in the negotiations between employers and their staff?

It is worth putting it on the record that it was the previous Labour Government who introduced foundation trusts in 2003 and set them free from direct accountability to Ministers. That includes the ability to set their own pay, terms and conditions. It was Labour that removed the power of the Secretary of State to direct foundation trusts, and it is Labour, not the Government, that needs to decide whether it supports the legislation that it put in place in government. We endorse national pay frameworks and will do all that we can to preserve them.