Government has a 'moral duty' to give NHS staff more than 1% pay rise, Lisa Nandy says

7 March 2021, 11:46 | Updated: 8 March 2021, 06:22

By Megan White

The Government has a "moral duty to look after the people who have looked after us", Labour's Lisa Nandy has told LBC amid the ongoing row over the 1% pay rise for NHS staff.

Speaking to Swarbrick on Sunday, the shadow foreign secretary said as the Government had budgeted for a 2.1 per cent pay rise in the NHS five year plan, that should be the "floor, but not the ceiling" of negotiations.

She said there is a "strong case for NHS staff, after the year that we’ve had, to see a significant rise" in pay.

Ministers have defended the rise amid a growing backlash, with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson telling Tom Swarbrick that the Government have "stated what we can afford."

But Ms Nandy said there is "no excuse" for breaking the 2.1 per cent commitment and urged the Government to rethink.

She told LBC: “In the long-term plan for the NHS, the Government budgeted for a 2.1 per cent pay rise.

“They actually put that into legislation last year because they wanted to give nurses a cast iron guarantee that after a decade of falling pay, that this was something the Government was absolutely committed to.

“We think that promise, at a minimum, must be honoured – there is no excuse after the year that nurses have had for breaking that commitment, particularly since it was budgeted for in the NHS’ five year plan.

“We think that should form the start of negotiations – the floor, but not the ceiling.”

Asked about the unions’ demand for a 12.5 per cent, Ms Nandy continued: “2.1 per cent is what the Government promised, and didn’t just promise, they actually wrote it into legislation they were so keen to show they could be trusted to keep their word.

“All we’re saying is that ought to be the starting point for going into these negotiations.

“I think there is a strong case for NHS staff, after the year that we’ve had, to see a significant rise – especially when you consider that they’ve actually seen falling wages for some considerable time now since the Conservative Party came to office.

“I think there’s an economic case around this as well.

“These are the people who have gone out and put themselves at risk and their families at risk for the last year, they’re exhausted, they’ve gone the extra mile to look after us.

“It’s also that when you put money into the pockets of low and middle income earners, they go out and spend it on the high street, they don’t put it into offshore savings accounts, they go and spend it in local businesses.

“Our economy is incredibly fragile at the moment, it makes economic sense to do this, but most of all there is a moral duty to look after the people who have looked after us.”

Speaking to Swarbrick on Sunday, Mr Williamson insisted there is a "real commitment" to the NHS.

He said: “There is a real commitment to our NHS, that’s why we’re putting an extra £6 billion in this year, this commitment for almost £34 billion extra going into it.

“This is part of a process.”

Asked whether ministers could look at the move again, Mr Williamson said: “We’ve stated what we can afford.

“We mustn’t forget the context that there’s almost three-quarters of a million people who are out of work, we’ve had one of the largest economic shocks, but we’ve always been clear that this is part of a process but we do value the NHS, that’s why we continue to invest in it at such record levels.”