Theresa May accused Labour of wanting to spend money on “this, that and the other” after Jeremy Corbyn demanded a pay rise for nurses.
The two party leaders clashed over the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions, with Corbyn urging May to “see sense” and scrap the one per cent public sector pay cap.
His comments came as hundreds of nurses descended on Parliament to protest over low pay, with the Royal College of Nursing warning strikes could take place if a “change of direction” is not announced this Autumn.
Speaking from the Despatch Box, the Labour leader said: “Poor pay means experienced staff are leaving and fewer people are training to become nurses. There’s already a shortage of 40,000 nurses across the UK.
“Will the Prime Minister please see sense and end the public sector pay cap and ensure our NHS staff are properly paid?”
After praising the work of public sector employees, May replied: “What we have seen from what he does inside this House and outside is consistently stand up and ask for more money to spent on this, that and the other.
“He asks consistently for more money to be spent. He can do that in opposition because he knows he doesn’t have to pay for it.
“The problem with Labour is they do it in Government as well.”
A Downing Street spokesperson sought to play down the comments this afternoon:
Nurses taking part in the protest told HuffPost UK the comments were “absolutely astonishing”.
May’s comments were similar to her words to a nurse during a BBC Question Time show in the run up to the election.
The NHS nurse asked why she and her colleagues had not had a real terms pay rise since 2009, leading May to reply: “I’m being honest with you in terms of saying that we will put more money into the NHS, but there isn’t a magic money tree that we can shake that suddenly provides for everything that people want.”