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Public Sector Pay: Proposed Strike Action – [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair] | Westminster Hall debates

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) on securing such an important debate. It is wonderful to see that so many people, at least on this side of the House, have attended.

It would be helpful if the Minister, whom I welcome to her new position, would answer three questions that were raised in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) talked about the fundamental right to withdraw one’s labour. It would be helpful to hear that the Government absolutely support that right, and to establish that that remains Government policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) asked why the Minister thinks there are so many people in our country who are considering going on strike, which is, as we have heard, an absolute last resort for people. Why does she think we are in that position?

My hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Grahame Morris) and for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) referred to reports that the Government are looking to restrict the right to strike in certain circumstances. It would be reassuring for hon. Members to hear from the Minister that that is no longer the case. There have been some reports that those plans have been dumped, but some that they have not. Will the Minister tell us?

Many people have raised the dire situation that we find ourselves in after a disastrous mini-Budget and a disastrous 12 years of low wage growth and low economic growth. Communities are fragile, people are fearful, and public services are very vulnerable. As pay stagnates and inflation rises, more and more trade unions are having to come to the difficult decision to ballot on pay deals. The Times reports today that the Treasury is looking at pay rises of 2% across the board. Will the Minister comment on the accuracy of those reports, and on whether the Treasury is considering such a significant real-terms pay cut?

We have talked about public sector workers’ conditions and pay, which are now forcing them out of their jobs. Forgive me for raising this issue, but I was in my constituency this morning. We are supposed to have eight speech and language therapists in Croydon, but we have only two. They cannot recruit to that role, because people find it too hard to do that job on the pay levels they are offered. Labour wants to see a Britain that is fairer, greener and more dynamic, with strong public services that provide security and opportunity. One thing we know for certain is that what does not grow the economy is the fantasy of trickle-down economics. Building the strength of our people is the way to build our economy.

Frances O’Grady at the TUC said recently that the biggest act of solidarity that the Labour party can do for working people is to deliver a Labour Government, and I agree. The hon. Member for Glasgow East (David Linden) said some most peculiar things about my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer). It might be helpful to reassure him of the policies that we would introduce in government. We believe in decent pay and conditions, and the new deal of the deputy leader of the Labour party, my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), will be written into law within the first 100 days of a new Labour Government.