Nurses do a fantastic job in extremely difficult circumstances and are well overdue a pay rise. The determination, professionalism and compassion of nurses comes against the backdrop of years of pay restraint. Indeed, the Royal College of Nursing estimates that since 2010 there has been a real-terms drop in earnings of 14% for its members and has said that some nursing staff are now relying on foodbanks and second jobs to make ends meet.
In 2015 the Government announced a maximum pay increase of 1% in public sector pay until 2019-20. I do not believe that this is sustainable. The report from the NHS Pay Review Body claims that the pay cap is "coming under stress" and highlights that staff have "concerns about the quality of care they can give, and feel that they are not valued."
On Wednesday 27 June the House of Commons debated health and social care as part of the debate on the Queen's Speech. I believe the Queen's Speech should have been an opportunity to take action to support our hard-pressed nurses and other public sector workers. Instead, the Government confirmed that its policy of a maximum 1 % public sector pay increase has not changed.
I believe a pay rise for nurses, paramedics, police officers, firemen and women - for all public sector workers in our constituency and across the country - is fair and affordable. That's why I supported an Opposition amendment in the debate on the Queen's Speech to end the public sector pay cap. While I voted for the Labour Opposition amendment, the Conservative and the DUP Government voted against it and it was defeated.
I can assure my constituents that I will continue to press the Government to lift the pay cap so that nurses and other public sector workers are paid at a level which recognises the skill and dedication which they bring to their jobs.