Scotland politics

SNP's Ian Blackford urges Theresa May to end 1% public sector pay cap

Nurses protesting about public sector pay Image copyright EPA
Image caption The nursing profession has been campaigning to end the public sector pay cap

The SNP's Ian Blackford has insisted that the prime minister should end "in work poverty" by backing a pay rise for public sector employees.

During PMQs in the Commons, he told Theresa May that too many people had "paid the price" for austerity.

The Conservative leader replied that the best route out of poverty was for people to be in work.

She pointed to tax cuts and the national living wage as ways to give workers "real help".

Mr Blackford, the SNP's Westminster leader, challenged Mrs May on whether she was "looking out for the just about managing".

He said: "The UK government has not announced any measures to address rising inflation and slowing wage growth which the IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) has described as dreadful.

"As workers face more than a decade of lost wage growth and endure the worst period for pay in 70 years, does the Prime Minister think she's looking out for the just about managing?"

Mrs May insisted that what was important was ensuring that "we have an economy which is increasing the number of jobs".

She went on: "Because the best route out of poverty is for people to be in work, that is what we are doing. We've seen nearly three million more jobs being created over recent years, that's important for people.

"We also help people for example by cutting taxes, it's exactly what we've done for people who are lower paid. Introducing that national living wage, these are measures that are giving people real help."

Image caption The SNP's Ian Blackford believes public sector workers have paid the price for austerity
Image caption Theresa May defended the government's monetary policy

Mr Blackford raised concerns about in-work poverty, arguing that workers have "paid the price" for austerity.

However, Mrs May maintained that the government's monetary policy had helped create jobs in the economy.

Former investment banker Mr Blackford said: "Of course it's the forecast of a rise in in-work poverty that should concern us, in particular the likely increase of young people in poverty over the lifetime of this Parliament.

"Since the 2010 general election, the FTSE has risen by 39.6%, monetary policy, not least quantitative easing has helped drive up financial assets while workers have paid the price for austerity.

"Workers will earn no more by 2020/21 than they did in 2008. Will the Prime Minister give workers a pay rise?"

Mrs May replied: "I would have thought that particularly with his background he would have recognised the role that monetary policy, including the quantitative easing, has done in ensuring that we are able to see those jobs in the economy that are so important for people."

Earlier at PMQs, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of "flip flopping and floundering" over public sector pay.

He said that the government was "recklessly exploiting the goodwill of public servants" through the 1% pay cap and called for it to be scrapped.

How public sector pay is set

  • Decisions on public sector pay are taken by the government after receiving recommendations from independent 'pay review bodies'
  • There are eight of these, which each make their own recommendations for different sectors of the 5.4m public sector workforce
  • In reaching a recommendation they have to consider the need to "recruit, retain and motivate" staff
  • They also need to consider the "financial circumstances" of the government
  • Since the 2010 Budget, it has been government policy for public sector pay to be frozen or, more recently, capped at 1%
  • Pay review bodies are able to recommend higher increases despite this policy, although the former chairman of several bodies, Alasdair Smith, told the BBC to do so would be a "big step"
  • Civil servants have also been subject to the 1% cap, although they are not covered by pay review bodies
  • Individual government departments have responsibility for implementing pay policy following guidelines set by the Treasury

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