My speech in full from the debate on NHS pay (Sept 13 2017) calling for decent pay for all public sector workers - poverty is a political choice, not a necessity.
The first order of business should be congratulating the Scottish Government on removing the cap on public sector pay rises. We should note, too, that, as my hon. Friend Dr Whitford said, Scotland's nurses get paid more than England's, by between £300 and £1,100 each, and that wages for nurses in Wales and in Northern Ireland are even lower than in England. It is time that the English, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments opened up the cash tin and started paying nurses more
Those Governments must give nurses the cash to bridge that gap with Scottish nurses and then match the pay rises from the Scottish Government—and make it new money. This has to be new investment, not current resources and not freed-up efficiency savings—those infamous, mythical beasts. It must be new money that is put into the service to keep it viable. Squeezing current resources simply starves the whole service. Please, let us also have no more of the pretence that paying workers a decent wage would bankrupt the economy or that a couple of per cent. on the wages of the lowest-paid would be some sort of spiral of economic doom.
I thank the hon. lady for that important intervention. Austerity, wage cuts and in-work poverty are political choices—this is policy not necessity. The poverty facing public sector workers, including NHS workers, is a choice made by the Government—a choice made by millionaires, making ordinary workers poorer. An "increase" of 1% in someone's wage while Brexit takes food prices through the roof, heating bills rocket, public transport fares are up by a quarter—more in some cases—the costs of childcare grow faster than the children, and rents soar is simply a pay cut. That makes the effects of the Government's inhumane austerity policy worse. These workers are suffering the effects of cuts to public services.
"Britain in which work pays" and a mental health Bill
"to put parity of esteem at the heart of treatment".
Last year, the Mental Health Foundation found a causal link between poverty and poor mental health, just like dozens of studies have shown before. That means that Tory Government austerity is increasing the incidence of mental health problems while promising to make it better. That increases the pressure on the NHS and betrays the patients who need the help. We cannot solve the problem in England's NHS with new laws; it needs new cash. A responsible Government would be finding that new cash and funnelling it into the NHS and other public services.
English police forces have been saying that they cannot afford pay rises without additional funding. Some forces have clearly already reached and exceeded capacity, judging by the stories of crimes being ignored because no officers are available. For some unfathomable reason, the Government have let police numbers drop by around 20,000 since 2010. That is not a public service in a serviceable condition; that is a public sector breaking down.
If austerity continues, England's public sector will cannibalise itself, and when that happens, Scotland's public services will be damaged as well. Tied to this place, Scotland gets damaged time and again, but public services in England have reached fracture-point and are disintegrating. At this point, England's NHS is not struggling but dying, and it is being helped on its merry way by Ministers who would rather it was gone.
Breaking down the fabric of public services renders them irreparable, and breaking down the workers who deliver them does the same. Decent pay for decent work is not an outrageous demand, and decent funding for society's infrastructure is a matter of respecting one's own self-interest as well.