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Barnett Formula: Public Sector Pay Cap

Volume 627: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2017

1. What assessment he has made of the effect of the removal of the public sector pay cap in Scotland on the Barnett formula if that cap is retained in England. (900486)

Mr Speaker, I am sure you will join me in congratulating Jamie Murray in the mixed doubles and Gordon Reid in the wheelchair doubles for ensuring that we again had Scottish champions at Wimbledon, where your enthusiasm for tennis was in evidence once again.

The Barnett formula applies to changes in UK Government funding and will not be impacted by Scottish Government decisions on public sector pay.

The Secretary of State’s constituents, and mine, have benefited from the Scottish National party Government’s ending of the public sector pay cap for their public sector workers in Scotland. The SNP tried to help public sector workers in England and throughout the UK by voting to end the UK public sector pay cap too. However, Scottish Tory MPs voted against helping workers in England. With the SNP helping workers in his constituency and mine, are he and his colleagues not ashamed of voting against removing the public sector pay cap in England to help workers there? What does he have against English workers?

From that question, Mr Speaker, you would not think that since 2007 the SNP Government in Scotland have been responsible for public sector pay and that a public sector pay cap has applied for most of that time. As far as I am aware, the SNP Government have not lifted the public sector pay freeze in Scotland; they have announced a consultation.

May I put on record the fact that the Scottish women’s football team will play an important European championship match tonight? I wish them all the best in their endeavours.

I do not think the Secretary of State fully appreciates the sense of grievance about the pay cap among hard-working public sector workers in Scotland. The Scottish Government have declared their intention to review and end the pay cap; will he argue in the United Kingdom Government for the same policy?

May I first welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new place? When the new SNP leader at Westminster said that he was reluctant, I did not realise that he was going to be reluctant to do Scottish questions, or that he was going to downgrade them.

I am clear that hard decisions have to be taken on public sector pay. If the Scottish Government, in their responsibilities, are saying that they are going to increase public sector pay, they have to identify where the funds are coming from.

I thank the Secretary of State for his kind words, but he and I will get on a lot better in this process if he does me the courtesy of answering the question. I asked him to state his intention to argue within Cabinet and the British Government to end the pay cap in Scotland so that workers in the public sector there will get the same rate of pay for the job, whether they work for the Scottish Government or for his Government.

I think I did answer the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Government have struck the right balance on pay and ensuring continued employment. We see that in Scotland, where we have the lowest unemployment figures on record. It is better that more people are in work in the public sector than that we had changed the public sector pay cap in previous years.

I, too, send my best wishes to the Scottish women’s football team for tonight. I also congratulate our tennis players on a wonderful tournament.

It is a pity that the SNP has bounced Labour’s proposal on lifting the public sector pay cap in November. Will the Secretary of State tell me what assessment has been made of the effect of the Government’s pay cap on the living standards of public sector employees in Scotland? Does he share the view of the Chancellor, who was recently reported to have said that public sector workers are overpaid?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place and congratulate her on her success in the election. I also send my best wishes to her predecessor, Dave Anderson, who was one of the Members who voluntarily left this Parliament at the last election. Of course, I pass on my best wishes to the Scottish women’s football team as I should have done in answer to the question of the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard). I agree with the Chancellor that we have struck the right balance in public sector pay on the basis that we have ensured that 200,000 public sector jobs were able to be maintained during this period of difficult fiscal conditions.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, but it is very clear that the Government are in complete chaos on this issue, which is very much like the SNP Government, who claim that they will abandon the public sector pay cap—[Interruption.]—despite voting it down in a proposal in May. Is it not the case that public sector workers in Scotland are being let down by two weak and wobbly Governments who have the wrong priorities, and that only a Labour Government have the policies and the political will to lift the public sector pay cap, ban austerity, stand up for public sector workers and stand up for Scotland?

Although I might be tempted to agree with the hon. Lady’s comments on the SNP Scottish Government, the position with Labour is absolutely clear in that no funds have been identified to increase public sector pay. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has made it very clear that, if we want to make a real difference on public sector pay, we have to do something that hits everybody—put a penny or two on the rates of income tax or VAT or something such as that. We cannot make a big difference just taxing the rich. The Labour party in Scotland and here in Westminster has the soundbites, but it does not have the policies to deliver what it is promising.