NHS Pay: 13th September 2017

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that anybody listening to his speech would take away from it a story of gloom and doom about our NHS? While there are difficulties and challenges, every day millions of people overwhelmingly enjoy one of the finest health services anywhere in the world, and I and many others are sick and tired of Labour talking it down.

Jonathan Ashworth
The right hon. Lady says that we are talking the NHS down. We are not talking it down; this Tory Government are running it down. She seemed concerned about public sector pay in the NHS a few months ago when she tweeted:

“The important retention & recruitment of public sector workers is about working conditions (esp in NHS) as well as pay”.

If she stands by that tweet, she should join us in the Lobby this evening.

Anna Soubry
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, but I think she should take back what she has just said. Whatever divides us when it comes to pay and financing, the one thing that cannot be said about any hon. or right hon. Member of this House, whichever party they may support, is that they do not care about the workers in the NHS. We certainly do, and we value and respect them.

Dr Allin-Khan
I thank the right hon. Lady for her intervention, but I have to say that a future Labour Government will not just talk the talk; we will walk the walk. A Labour Government will be on the side of ordinary people—those serving on Britain’s frontline. It is not right that in 2017 Britain, those at the top of our civil service can receive golden handshakes, taking home more than a quarter of a million pounds a year, while those on the frontline are stuck on the breadline.

Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
I was going to say that it was a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), but I truly struggle to do so. If we are to do our job as politicians, the first thing that we must do is drop the rhetoric, drop the slogans and stop the insults. They do not help, they do not achieve anything, and they are insulting. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman, and other Opposition Members, that some of us on this side of the House are getting a little sick and tired of, one, the way that the Labour party continues to run down our NHS, and two, the perpetuation of the stereotype that we do not use it, and, indeed, that we do not have families. In fact, our families have long roots in the NHS.

I am very proud of four generations of Soubrys all of whom are working, or have worked, in the NHS. My niece is training to be a paramedic, and I am sure that my mentioning that in Parliament in the presence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will advance her career. Of course it will not! Her mother, my sister-in-law, works in a GP’s surgery, and my brother Charlie works at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham. My mother was a radiographer all her working life; she proudly worked in the NHS for 40 years, finally retiring, long after she should have done, at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. Her mother-in-law—my grandmother—was a nurse, as was my great aunt. I am therefore one of many Members on this side of the House with long, firm roots in the NHS. We get it, we love it, we have a passion for it, and that is why we continue to support it and fund it.

What the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton just does not understand, like, sadly, so many of his colleagues, is that the way we achieve the great public services we all agree we want is to have a good, firm, sound economy, and we achieve that through the sort of sensible Conservative policies that we on these Benches have advocated, and have achieved—or we wreck it and destroy that strong economy with the sort of socialism that strangles our economy now being advocated by Labour’s current Front-Bench. The choice for the British people is absolutely clear: if they want a strong NHS delivering those fantastic services, they should support the Conservative party, because it us who deliver the economy to pay for those services.

I also take grave exception to anybody telling me that I follow the party line; I can think of a few on the Conservative Benches who would take grave issue with that. I make it very clear that there are undoubtedly problems and huge challenges, and all is not well within our great NHS, but, please, we must not talk it down in the way we have done.

By way of example, a very dear friend of mine died only the other week; he had a terminal illness. Even in her deepest grief, my friend, Dick Benson’s widow, when she called to tell me of his demise, told me of the remarkable care that he had had thanks to the GP in Nottingham who had provided his end-of-life care support. That is just one example of the hundreds of thousands of people who are receiving world-class treatment every day, thanks to our NHS.

As I have said, however, all is not well. Too many of our NHS workers are working overly long shifts with short breaks. I know of consultant friends of mine ​having to pay for their lanyards when they are broken at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, and there are many other examples.

Finally, let me give an outstanding example from my clinical commissioning group, Nottingham West. It has said that six of the 12 GP surgeries are outstanding. There is much more to be done, but make no mistake: the way we achieve a great NHS and make it even better is to have the strong economy that only the Conservatives can deliver.

Anna Soubry
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the biggest increase in NHS privatisation—5%—occurred under a Labour Government? The Conservatives’ record is 1%.

Simon Hoare
My right hon. Friend is correct, but the Labour party does not like truth spoken unto opposition. Let us hope that we never have to speak truth unto Labour in power, because that would be even worse.

Peter Dowd
I will come back to the hon. Lady in a moment.

NHS workers are the subject of today’s debate, but we must not forget workers in the rest of the public sector. In fact, I believe that NHS workers would be dismayed if we focused only on their pay situation. Why would they be? Because they spend their professional lives looking after others. I take NHS workers’ commitment incredibly seriously, unlike that hon. Member on the Government Benches who laughs at nurses, doctors and allied professionals. That is the sort of thing we get from the Tories.

Simon Hoare
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Anna Soubry
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Peter Dowd
No, I will not.

I know that NHS workers take that view because I have spoken to them.

Anna Soubry
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to point randomly across the Chamber and insult another Member, without even having the courtesy to name them and thereby give them the right of reply?

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle)
If we were to take that as an example, I could give many other examples of people on both sides pointing and certainly not being courteous to Members in the way one would expect. The right hon. Lady has a good track record of being able to give a bit out; she ought to be able to take it.

Peter Dowd
I say again that I know for a fact that NHS workers take the view that this debate is not just about them but about the public sector generally.In proxy terms, this debate is about all public sector workers. Many of the arguments about the health sector apply to other parts of the public sector as well.

Anna Soubry
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Peter Dowd
No, I will not.

This debate has come at a stark time for our public sector workers. We have had the hardest summer that many of us can remember—our emergency workers and other public sector workers have faced the horror of terror attacks and the outrage of Grenfell.

Anna Soubry
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
 
Peter Dowd
No, I will not.