James Cleverly Slapped Down For Not Giving 'Straight Answer' To Sky News Presenter

“I’m sorry, you’re not getting an answer you like," the foreign secretary said.
James Cleverly and Jayne Secker
James Cleverly and Jayne Secker
Sky News

James Cleverly has been accused of failing to give a “straight answer” over nurses’ pay.

Sky presenter Jayne Secker repeatedly asked Cleverly why the health secretary Steve Barclay had not sat down with nurses who are due to go on strike next week.

However, she grew impatient with the cabinet minister after he continued to repeat the same answers, telling him: “I feel like I’m not getting a straight answer!”

The Royal College of Nursing [RCN] has offered to “press pause” on the planned strike action if Barclay agrees to negotiate properly on pay.

They are due to take part in unprecedented strike action on December 15 and December 20.

Secker asked Cleverly why Barclay had not sat down with nurses. The foreign secretary told her that Barclay’s door was open but that pay negotiation was done by an independent review body.

The presenter accused the government of hiding behind the independent body, adding: “You’re saying you’re willing to meet them and then not meeting them.”

Cleverly told her meetings “are different from pay negotiations” but Secker hit back saying the government controlled the purse strings.

She said pay recommendations had been made before inflation soared making them “woefully out of date”.

During the ding-dong, Secker continued to hammer the question asking: “OK so will he sit down with the Royal College of Nursing in the next day or so and avert the strikes that we’re expecting later this week?”

Cleverly repeated that Barclay’s door was open and that negotiations are done through the independent pay review body.

Secker asked: “So he won’t negotiate pay with the nurses - he will simply say go back to the independent pay review body?”

Cleverly replied: “So the question I ask is - do we respect those independent pay bodies or not?”

Secker hit back: “If the independent pay review bodies say one thing and the nurses say another, the health secretary doesn’t appear to be talking to the nurses directly, he’s the only one who can solve it, he’s the only one who can sit in the middle and say ‘right, this is what they say this is what you want let’s try and reach a compromise’.”

Cleverly said that was the role of the independent pay review body, telling her: “The clue is in the name, it’s independent, and it reviews paid awards.”

Secker said it did not seem there was any way to resolve the dispute if the government was unwilling to move from what the independent pay review body said.

Cleverly told her: “Sorry this question is going round in circles.”

Secker replied: “I feel like I’m not getting a straight answer!”

Cleverly hit back: “I’m sorry, you’re not getting an answer you like.”

In an editorial for the Sun on Sunday, Barclay criticised the planned strikes amid serious pressures on the NHS.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said she was willing to press pause on the walkout if Barclay agreed to come to the table and discuss a deal on pay demands.

The department of health said Barclay’s “door remains open for further talks”, but did not say whether pay would now be on the table.

The RCN this week accused Barclay of refusing to properly negotiate on pay, with Cullen suggesting he had deployed “bullyboy” tactics against a largely female workforce.

The strike will cause major disruption to the NHS in the run-up to Christmas, with ambulance workers also set to strike on December 21.

The RCN has said that despite this year’s pay award of £1,400, experienced nurses are worse off by 20 per cent in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.

The union has been calling for a pay rise of 5 per cent above RPI inflation.

In response to the latest offer from the unions, a department of health spokesperson said: “These are extremely challenging times, we have accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS pay review body in full – this means newly qualified nurses have had a 5.5 per cent increase and those on the lowest salaries, such as porters and cleaners, have received a pay rise of up to 9.3 per cent.”

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting called it “an offer the government can’t refuse”.


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