Govt defeats Labour’s pay cap amendment


The Government has defeated a Labour bid to end the cap on public sector pay in the first parliamentary test of the Tory-DUP deal.

Labour had attempted to push through an amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling on ministers to recruit more police officers and firefighters and to end the 1% limit on annual pay rises for public sector workers.

But their efforts were defeated in the House of Commons, with 323 MPs opposing the amendment versus 309 in favour. The result gave the Government a majority of 14.

Wednesday night’s vote was the first test of the minority Conservative Government’s “confidence and supply” agreement with the DUP’s 10 MPs.

The amendment was backed by all opposition parties, while all DUP MPs voted with the Government against the Labour revision.

The full Labour amendment expressed “regret” last week’s Queen’s Speech failed to end cuts to the police and fire service, along with the demands on boosting the number of emergency service workers and their pay.

Responding to the result, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities and local government secretary, told Sky News: “The public want to see more investment in policing and in firefighters – something that was a key pledge in our election manifesto.

“We think it’s time these public sector servants – nurses, teachers, police officers, council workers – that they get a pay rise.

“Clearly we weren’t able to win the vote today because the DUP deal the Conservatives have done has seen them over the line.”

Highlighting the Government’s promise to spend £1bn extra in Northern Ireland as part of their agreement with the DUP, Mr Gwynne added: “It’s ironic there’s not going to be any austerity in Northern Ireland, but in England, Scotland and Wales we have to continue with this austerity and pain.”

Tory MP John Penrose said: “After seven years of everyone having to tighten their belts – private sector as well as public sector let’s not forget – everybody is starting to feel the pinch.

“It’s been difficult. To try and pretend otherwise would, I think, be unfair and untrue.

The Weston-super-Mare MP admitted “people want to see an opportunity to change this” but insisted amending the Queen’s Speech could have led the Government to fall, just weeks after voters made the Tories the largest party.
He added: “If you’re going to try and add extra money to any part of the public sector you’ve got to say where you’re going to get it from.”

The vote followed confusion over the future of public sector pay after Downing Street earlier signalled it could lift the 1% cap.

A senior Number 10 source said the Prime Minister had “heard the message” of the General Election and the Government understood “people are weary” of austerity measures.

But, hours later, Downing Street insisted there had been no change to the Government’s policy.

Setting out the Government’s legislative agenda for the next two years, the Queen’s Speech was dominated by the Brexit process while a number of the Tories’ election manifesto pledges were ditched following their failure to win a majority.

Labour are likely to try and force other amendments to the Queen’s Speech on Thursday.