Jeremy Hunt was today accused of “guzzling” down a pay rise for himself at the same time as refusing to increase the wages of NHS staff.
In an interview with Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain this morning, the health secretary defended the government’s pay freezes and caps for nurses.
“I certainly agree that NHS staff do a brilliant job and we would certainly like to pay them more than we are able to at the moment,” he said. “We have had to face a very difficult period financially.”
However Morgan asked if this was the case, why MPs had accepted an increase to their salaries and were “guzzling pay rises left, right and centre”.
Hunt said while he had accepted his pay rise as an MP, he had taken a cut to his ministerial salary. “We recognise we have to set an example,” he said.
MPs do not decide their own pay. Following the expenses scandal responsibility for setting the salary of MPs rests with the independent Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).
This year MPs received a £1,049 pay rise, a 1.4% increase, taking their salaries to £76,011.
There is a government imposed 1% pay cap for nurses, midwives and other NHS staff.
In the interview, Hunt also admitted if Brexit goes wrong then the NHS will be damaged.
“If we get a bad outcome, it will be terrible for the British economy,” he said. “We won’t be able to lock in our recovery, there will be less money for the NHS - all of our public services.”
Today Labour said it would guarantee a pay rise for NHS staff. Shadow health secretary John Ashworth said: “NHS staff have been taken for granted for too long by the Conservatives.
“Cuts to pay and training mean hard working staff are being forced from NHS professions and young people are being put off before they have even started. Now Brexit threatens the ability of health employers to recruit from overseas.”
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said Labour would need to raise “significant extra sums in tax revenue” to pay for its plan.
“Each 1% on pay, just 1%, costs half a billion pounds each time. It’s not possible to say from what the Labour party have said quite how much more they intend to spend on the NHS,” he said.