Watch: Sir Keir Starmer attacks the PM over pay increase for NHS workers
Sir Keir Starmer has attacked Boris Johnson for giving nurses a real-terms cut in salary after previously giving his former aide Dominic Cummings a 40% pay rise.
During Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Johnson was forced by the Labour leader to defend his government’s recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff.
The proposed increase has been widely criticised as too low, given the role NHS workers have played in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
The Royal College of Nursing has pledged to establish a £35m fund to support members who want to strike over the pay move.
Starmer told the House of Commons: “Who does the prime minister think deserves a pay rise more, an NHS nurse or Dominic Cummings?”
Johnson replied: “As I told [Daisy Cooper] from the Liberal Democrats earlier on, we owe a massive debt as a society and I personally to the nurses of our NHS.
“And that is why we’ve asked the public sector pay review body exceptionally to look at their pay.
“I want to stress, however, as the House knows, that starting salaries for nurses have gone up by 12.8% over the last three years, and it is thanks to the package that this government has put in place that we now have 10,600 more nurses in our NHS than there were one year ago and 60,000 more in training.”
He went on to describe the Tories as the “party of the NHS”.
Starmer continued his attack, saying: “Since 2010, nurses’ pay has fallen in real terms by more than £800.
“He could afford to give Dominic Cummings a 40% pay rise, he could afford that, now he is asking NHS nurses to take a real-terms pay cut.
“How on earth does he justify that?”
Johnson said: “I repeat the point that I have made, I believe that we all owe a massive debt to our nurses, indeed all our healthcare workers and our social care workers.”
Starmer said the PM had “shut the door" in NHS workers' face after standing and clapping for them during the pandemic.
He questioned how Johnson thought a “pay cut” would attract the nurses and doctors needed to fill thousands of vacancies.
The Labour leader said: “Frankly, I’d take the prime minister a bit more seriously if he hadn’t spent £2.6m of taxpayers’ money on a Downing Street TV studio or £200,000 on new wallpaper for his flat. They say charity starts at home but I think the prime minister is taking it a bit too literally.”
Starmer asked Johnson if he agreed NHS workers would receive hundreds of pounds less each year as a result of his government's budget.
The PM replied: “No. Of course we will look at what the independent pay review body has to say exceptionally about the nursing profession for whom we particularly value.”
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