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Public Sector Pay

Volume 626: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2017

1. If he will hold discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on bringing forward proposals to review public sector pay. (900232)

Public sector pay policy has always been designed to strike the right balance between being fair to our public servants and fair to those who pay for them. The Government will continue to assess that balance.

I thank the Minister for that answer, and I ask the House to note that my wife is a primary school teacher in Scotland. According to an academic report published this week by the UK Government, average public sector earnings have fallen in the last decade by 6%, or up to £3 per hour for some people. With that in mind, will the Minister advise us on whether he supports, and wishes this Government to follow, the lead that the Scottish Government have taken in ending the 1% cap for public sector workers? Or does he support what the former Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday: that it is “selfish” to campaign for an end to the cap?

It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman brings up Scottish education, which is, as he knows, the responsibility of the Scottish Government. I point out that in England, where this Government have responsibility for education, there are 15,500 more teachers than there were in 2010. As he knows, the Government have asked independent public sector pay review bodies to recommend what should happen in their respective professions each year, and the House may be interested to know that the Government have accepted every recommendation made by a public sector pay review body since 2014.

The Gray family have a monopoly on Question 1. Of course, we all have every sympathy with public sector pay bodies, and it is right that we listen to what they say. Nevertheless, does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are to accede to every request, we will have to pay for it by either decreasing spending or increasing taxation? Which would he prefer?

My hon. Friend makes a perfectly valid point. Everyone in this House wants to be fair to public sector workers, but Conservative Members also want to be fair to taxpayers. It is very important that we strike the right balance. If we do not strike that balance, we will wreck the economy, which is what would happen with the Labour party’s ridiculous uncosted policy proposals.

While cutting the real-terms pay of nurses, the police, fire officers and others, the Prime Minister has broken her own £72,000 cap that she advocated for the salaries of political appointees. A third of all her special advisers earn more than that, and her two ill-fated chiefs of staff earned almost double that amount. How can the Minister justify pay restraint for nurses when there is no restraint in No. 10? Will he put an end to the pay cap in the public sector by changing the guidelines that the Government give to the pay review bodies? Finally, will he reject the former Prime Minister’s disgraceful slur that wanting to earn a decent income in the public sector is somehow selfish?

Let me answer some of the hon. Gentleman’s questions. I hope he recognises that, as I have just said, the Government have accepted every recommendation made by a public sector pay review body since 2014. Striking the right balance between being fair to public sector workers and being fair to taxpayers must be the right way forward. The suggestions that were made during the election campaign, and clearly continue to be made, by the Labour party would lead to the situation that the Greek people have had to suffer: precisely because of irresponsible commitments made by their Government, they have had to slash their public services. Public services get worse under the sort of economic policy advised by the Labour party.