Skip to main content

Industrial Action: Public Services

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 2 February 2023

6. What steps his Department is taking to support the operation of public services during industrial action. (903403)

13. What steps his Department is taking to support the operation of public services during industrial action. (903413)

All Departments are responsible for their own business continuity plans and have well-established contingency arrangements. The Cabinet Office’s Cobra unit has supported Departments to develop those arrangements to minimise the impact on public services. Yesterday, for example, more than 600 military personnel undertook action to support a smooth flow at the border. I pay tribute to the work that they and others did.

As if the ultra low emission zone were not bad enough, Carshalton and Wallington residents have had to deal with strikes affecting the transport network, despite the Mayor’s promise of zero strikes. There is a very important point to be made about safety as a result of the ongoing impact on the transport network. Bus stops and railway stations in London face dangerous overcrowding when strikes are on. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that the safety of the remainder of the transport network will be a key factor when minimum service levels are set?

As a Member of Parliament whose constituency borders London, I share my hon. Friend’s deep frustration with the conduct of the Mayor and with the ULEZ, which is a tax on hard-working commuters and citizens in London. My hon. Friend rightly raises a point about minimum service levels, which are at the root of the Government’s legislation—the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which passed through this House in the face of opposition from the Labour party—to protect standards of service and safety on our transport network.

Ambulance response times, particularly in rural areas such as Eddisbury, are one of those issues on which I seem to have been campaigning since I first came to Parliament. Like others, I am perplexed by the contrarian and regressive turn that has been taken in the policy area by unions representing ambulance workers, which are refusing to agree to minimum service and safety levels during industrial action. Does my right hon. Friend agree that they should embrace those common- sense measures? Perhaps the public would then be more sympathetic in the subsequent collective bargaining.

As ever, I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. The public expect a minimum safety level in core public services such as ambulance provision, as exists in comparable European countries. This is a sensible, straightforward measure to ensure patient safety at a time of most desperate need, which is why the Government are bringing it forward—again, in the teeth of opposition from the Labour party.