22 November 2012
See update 10 December 2012 at the foot of this post.
ORIGINAL POST of 22 November 2012:
There were two debates in parliament the other day on regional and local pay in the NHS, a brief one in Westminster Hall ( Hansard 7 November 2012 column 246WH) and one on a Labour motion supporting national pay in the NHS and calling on the Tory Libdem government to intervene against moves to regional and local pay in the southwest, including Cornwall and the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) ( Hansard 7 November 2012 column 868 onwards). I think regional and local pay in Cornwall will mean cuts in pay and probably worse holiday and sick conditions.
Labour’s arguments were damaged – fatally damaged, I think – by the brutal fact that the party started the process that undermined national pay. The 2003 Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act created foundation trusts and hospitals and empowered them to vary national pay; the 2004 Agenda for Change included the principle of regional pay; and Labour introduced some regional pay variation in the courts service. The 2003 Labour budget also talked of introducing regional pay throughout the public service.
Many Labour MPs opposed the creation of foundation trusts; Labour MPs for Scotland constituencies supported it though it did not apply to Scotland.
The heavy history of its past weighed Labour down and it was left unconvincingly saying that pay below national rates was not the intention of the ‘flexibility’ it legislated for. Incompetent legislators then.
If Labour wants to be taken seriously on regional and local pay, it has to acknowledge fully its record and either endorse it or renounce it.
As for the Liberal Democrats, in 2003 the amendment by Labour MP David Hinchcliffe to scrap the introduction of foundation trusts was supported by the three Cornwall MPs that voted, all Libdems: Colin Breed, Andrew George, Paul Tyler ( Hansard 8 July 2003 column 975). At the third reading of the bill ( Hansard 8 July 2003 column 1099, division 284), only thee MPs from Cornwall voted, the same three and against.
The other day all three current Libdem MPs in Cornwall, Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert, and Dan Rogerson, opposed regional pay in the NHS; they then voted against the Labour motion opposing regional pay in the NHS; and then they voted for the Tory Libdem government amendment to the Labour motion, an amendment which very noticeably did not reject regional pay but largely delineated Labour’s dismal record. I see that they may not have wished to support Labour, given its unresiled record, but to support an amendment that does not even mildly challenge or doubt regional pay in the NHS is, I think, puzzling given their with stated opposition to such pay.
Andrew George made early day motion (EDM) 719 on 13 November 2012. This “calls on the government to do all that it can to resist regional and local pay variations in public services” and knocks Labour. There are presently twelve signatures, mainly Libdem and including Stephen Gilbert.
The Libdem party had initially sought the regionalisation of the minimum wage but Labour, including Candy Atherton the then Labour MP for Camborne, rightly insisted on a national rate.
The Tories began this approach to NHS localised pay with their 1990 NHS and Community Care Act: see this interesting summary of the road to localised pay. They also initially opposed the national minimum wage. The other day the Tory Libdem government supported the NHS national pay scheme, also supported each trust deciding wages for themselves (with consultation with workers), and also declined to tell the southwest trusts to end their moves to regional/local pay. I think that is Yes but no but yes but no but …
I suspect they see the threat of a breakaway in the southwest as useful pressure on unions to settle the dragging national negotiations smartly. If those negotiations succeed, they may possibly make the southwest consortium redundant; if they fail, the government will have to expose its view on cuts in pay and conditions at the RCHT.
None of the three parties come to the issue of regional pay as saints and the Labour record is particularly dismal. Jude Robinson’s work for a living wage shines like a good deed in a naughty Labour world.
You can read the Cornwall MPs contributions in Hansard: Andrew George column 869 and 910, Stephen Gilbert 893, Dan Rogerson 900.
END of original post
UPDATE 10 December 2012
George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, told the Commons that the Tory Libdem government would continue “national pay arrangements in the NHS, prison service, and…ciivil service” but individual teachers’ pay would be decided by heads in school (Hansard 5 December 2012 column 875).