Health secretary Steve Barclay insists nurses getting ‘fair’ pay rise as strike dates announced – UK politics live | Politics

Health secretary Steve Barclay insists nurses getting ‘fair’ pay rise as strike dates announced

Good morning. Another day, another strike, because overnight the Royal College of Nursing has set the date for two 12-hour nursing strikes in December that will affect most of the UK. My colleagues Andrew Gregory and Jamie Grierson have the details here.

Pat Cullen, the RCN general secretary, accused Steve Barclay, the health secretary, of being intransigent. She said:

If Barclay wishes to meet with me, get round the table and stop the spin and start to speak, he can avert these strikes. My door is wide open night and day. I will make myself available, as will my team on behalf of our nursing staff. That option isn’t available to me at this time and consequently he has chosen strikes over speaking to me.

But in tweets this morning Barclay insisted that he was available for talks.

Our priority is keeping patients safe. The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate but inevitably strike action will have an impact on services.

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

My door remains open to @theRCN if they want to discuss ways we can improve nurses’ working lives.

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

However, he also defended the pay offer already on the table as “fair”.

We have accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body to give nurses a fair pay rise of at least £1,400 this year. This means a newly qualified nurse will typically earn over £31,000 a year

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

I’ll post more on this shortly. Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: MPs debate backbench bill, starting with Liam Fox’s electricity and gas transmission (compensation) bill.

10am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, addresses the Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

Lunchtime: Keir Starmer is doing a visit in Birmingham.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Key events

According to the Times’s splash by Matt Dathan and Nicola Woodcock, ministers are considering stopping foreign students from attending non-elite universities as one means of curbing immigration. Dathan and Woodcock report:

One of the ideas being considered is barring foreign students unless they have a place at an elite university. The universities that take the most foreign students at present include Manchester, Edinburgh, Leeds, Sheffield, University College London, King’s College London and Imperial.

A crackdown on low-quality degrees was promised by Nadhim Zahawi when he was education secretary. His measures, recently introduced by the Office for Students, will penalise universities with high drop-out rates and low graduate earnings.

Dathan and Woodcock say foreign students will also face new limits on the number of dependents they can bring with them.

The SNP has described the proposal as ‘ludicrous’. Stuart McDonald MP, the SNP’s home affairs spokesperson, said:

The Tories trashed the economy with Brexit – and now they are proposing an absurd ban on international students that would deal another hammer blow to Scotland’s economic interests.

Independence is the only way to keep Scotland safe from these wreckless Tory policies, which are harming our economy and driving away the talent and investment needed to secure growth.

If Westminster imposes this ludicrous and entirely counterproductive policy – it will be doing so against Scotland’s wishes and in the face of strong opposition from the Scottish government.

Boris Johnson and Liz Truss join rebel Tory bid to lift ban on new onshore windfarms

On Wednesday Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, tabled an amendment to the levelling up bill that would lift the ban on new onshore windfarms. The amendment did not receive a lot of attention because the government’s main problem with the bill is coming not from pro-development Tories like Clarke, but from the anti-development Tories backing the amendment that would abolish mandatory housing targets. Downing Street still has not decided whether to appease these rebels, or face them down.

But the Clarke amendment is now looking much more interesting because it has attracted the support of two high-profile backbenchers – Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Clarke amendment
Clarke amendment Photograph: HoC

During her short premiership, Truss said she wanted to reverse the ban on new onshore wind developments, and so her decision to back the amendment is not surprising.

But Johnson did not lift the ban during his three years in No 10, which makes his decision to sign the amendment more intriguing. Perhaps he is attracted by a campaign that might destabilise Rishi Sunak, whom he blames for helping to end his premiership? Or it might just be that, as someone more committed to net zero than most senior Tory, he is genuinely in favour of more onshore wind – but just never wanted to push this as PM because he knew it would go down badly with the Telegraph-reading wing of the Conservative party (which includes a large chunk of its MPs).

Seventeen Tory MPs have signed the amendment. More than 50 Tories have signed the Theresa Villiers amendment to abolish mandatory house building targets, but, as the Daniel Martin points out in his Daily Telegraph splash on this story, the Clarke one is potentially more serious because Labour might vote for the Clarke amendment, whereas it will not vote for the Villiers one.

Trust leaders will do “everything in their power to minimise disruption for patients” during the nursing strike, a health leader said. Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and other NHS trusts, said:

Trusts up and down the country have been planning for industrial action. Not all of them will be affected directly but those that are will do everything in their power to minimise disruption for patients.

Trust leaders’ priorities are ensuring the safe delivery of care and supporting the wellbeing of staff who continue to work flat out in the face of below-inflation pay awards, severe staff shortages and ever-increasing workloads.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour party chair, was on Sky News this morning talking about the nurses’ strike. The fact that it was happening was a sign of “gross negligence” by the government, she said. She told the programme:

I have to say that today is a very, very sad day because it really indicates that for the first time in its 100-year history, the Royal College of Nursing is now engaging in industrial action. This is a sign of gross negligence on the part of the Conservative government.

I don’t blame nurses for saying a situation where they’re understaffed, overworked and burnt out isn’t acceptable. But this is going to be hugely disruptive for patients.

If Labour were in government, we wouldn’t be ignoring the nurses as Conservatives seem to have done for so long now. We would be sitting down with them. We’d also be sorting out those enormous staffing issues as well. And we would do that by strapping that non-dom tax loophole and getting the money into the NHS, so that we’re relieving the pressure.

But Dodds refused to say whether a Labour government would give nurses the pay increase they are demanding, saying “it’s not reasonable for a politician to sit and pontificate about 1% up, 1% down”. And when asked if Labour backed nurses going on strike, she replied:

Look, no one supports strikes. Strikes indicate that negotiations haven’t taken place, that they haven’t been serious.

This is going to be bad for nurses because they’ll be losing a day’s pay, obviously, and it’s going to have that impact on patients.

So it’s wrong that nurses have been driven to this stage and it’s wrong that the Conservative Government has not been sitting down with those nurses to avert this.

James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, is in Kyiv, where he has been meeting the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. The Foreign Office says he has announced “a further £3m of support to the Partnership Fund for a Resilient Ukraine to rebuild vital local infrastructure”. It says:

Through this fund the UK is supporting the government of Ukraine, local officials and Ukrainian communities to rebuild vital local infrastructure. This is enabling people to return to normal life by clearing debris from Russian attacks, making areas safe and secure, and rebuilding schools and shelters in towns and villages. This new funding will be targeted to areas recently liberated from Russian control in southern Ukraine, including Kherson oblast.

Words are not enough.

Words won’t keep the lights on this winter. Words won’t defend against Russian missiles.

The UK isn’t just talking about Ukraine, we’re providing concrete support for the defence of Ukraine.

Thank you @DmytroKuleba for welcoming me to Kyiv. pic.twitter.com/3LdgnXJKwo

— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) November 25, 2022

Life-preserving and emergency care to be exempt from nurses’ strike, says RCN leader

Pat Cullen, the Royal College of Nursing general secretary, told the Today programme this morning “life-preserving services” and emergency care would not be covered by the RCN strikes in December. But she said exact details of what would be exempt were still being worked out. She told the programme:

What we will continue to provide is life-preserving services. And those essentially fall into emergency-type care …

We will have very, very detailed and worked-through plans that every single nurse that is taking strike action will be expected to adhere to.

And in each organisation that is subject to industrial action, we set up within that organisation a local strike committee, which is headed up by a senior member of my team, which will be a registered nurse and also then a number of clinical experts that will guide and direct all decisions that will be made.

Asked if nurses would be on cancer wards on strike days, she replied:

Services such as oncology will be derogated or exempt from any strike action. We have a number of services that we are working through at the minute that will be derogated on the day of strike, and we will release that list soon to employers.

Pressed on scans or cancer checks such as colonoscopies, she said:

All of the detail is being worked through. Those services that are not considered life-preserving or emergency services will not be derogated. Those that do fall into those particular descriptions will be derogated.

Pat Cullen.
Pat Cullen. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

Humza Yousaf, the Scottish government’s cabinet secretary for health, has stressed that the proposed nurses’ strike will not cover Scotland.

To be clear the RCN nurses strike covers England, Wales and NI, not Scotland. RCN Scotland are currently considering the record pay offer we have put on the table. If accepted it will give NHS (AfC) staff a pay rise of between £2205-£2751, best paid NHS staff in the UK. https://t.co/e3V2JDqV0N

— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) November 25, 2022

Royal Mail and university lecturers’ strikes continue

Royal Mail workers and university lecturers are again on strike today in long running disputes over pay, pensions, jobs and conditions, PA Media reports. PA says:

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and University and College Union (UCU) walked out on Thursday for 48 hours, with more action planned in the coming weeks.

Picket lines were again mounted outside universities and Royal Mail centres across the country on Black Friday – one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Health secretary Steve Barclay insists nurses getting ‘fair’ pay rise as strike dates announced

Good morning. Another day, another strike, because overnight the Royal College of Nursing has set the date for two 12-hour nursing strikes in December that will affect most of the UK. My colleagues Andrew Gregory and Jamie Grierson have the details here.

Pat Cullen, the RCN general secretary, accused Steve Barclay, the health secretary, of being intransigent. She said:

If Barclay wishes to meet with me, get round the table and stop the spin and start to speak, he can avert these strikes. My door is wide open night and day. I will make myself available, as will my team on behalf of our nursing staff. That option isn’t available to me at this time and consequently he has chosen strikes over speaking to me.

But in tweets this morning Barclay insisted that he was available for talks.

Our priority is keeping patients safe. The NHS has tried and tested plans in place to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate but inevitably strike action will have an impact on services.

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

My door remains open to @theRCN if they want to discuss ways we can improve nurses’ working lives.

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

However, he also defended the pay offer already on the table as “fair”.

We have accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body to give nurses a fair pay rise of at least £1,400 this year. This means a newly qualified nurse will typically earn over £31,000 a year

— Steve Barclay (@SteveBarclay) November 25, 2022

I’ll post more on this shortly. Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: MPs debate backbench bill, starting with Liam Fox’s electricity and gas transmission (compensation) bill.

10am: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, addresses the Poverty Alliance conference in Glasgow.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

Lunchtime: Keir Starmer is doing a visit in Birmingham.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com




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