Politics latest news: Matt Hancock defends 1pc increase to nurses pay as they threaten to strike

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Danielle Sheridan
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Matt Hancock has defended the 1pc pay rise for health workers
Matt Hancock has defended the 1pc pay rise for health workers

Matt Hancock has defended a proposed 1 per cent pay rise for NHS staff as he said it was made on the basis of "affordability".

The Health Secretary told the Downing Street press conference, that while he hailed the "incredible" work of NHS staff the coronavirus pandemic had brought "financial consequences" for the country.

Mr Hancock said: "The evidence that was put forward yesterday was on the basis of affordability."

He added: "We've proposed what we think is affordable to make sure that in the NHS people do get a pay rise and I think it is fair to take into account all the considerations, the incredible hard work of those in the NHS, which means they are not part of the overall public sector pay freeze and also what's affordable as a nation."

It comes as the main union for nurses has set up an £35 million industrial action fund to strike if necessary over the Government's 1 pc pay rise for health workers.

The council of the Royal College of Nursing made the decision amid growing anger over the pay of health staff who have been under unprecedented pressure during the coronavirus crisis.

05:55 PM

That's all for today

Thanks for sticking with us today and following all the latest politics news as it unfolded.

We'll be back on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

05:32 PM

Jabs for NHS staff could be made compulsory

Mr Hancock says that although "at this stage, we are not proposing to bring in mandatory vaccination for NHS staff", a review "will look into the moral, ethical, and practical questions" of it.

05:25 PM

Health Secretary defends 1pc rise

Mr Hancock said he paid "tribute to all those working in the NHS".
He says: "These have been challenging times and one of the challenges is the financial consequences of the pandemic."
Mr Hancock said "elsewhere in public sector there’s a pay freeze in place", but the government had made sure that nurses and healthcare workers were excluded from the freeze.
"It is fair to take into account all the considerations," he said.

05:18 PM

'The sixth variant'

Mr Hancock said the sixth variant that was first identified in Brazil. He said it was thanks to the "dogged determination of testing and tracing that we’ve successfully identified the person in question".
"The best evidence is that the person in question stayed at home," he says.
Extra testing will take place in Croydon, where there person lives, in order to" minimise risk of spread". He added that it showed the "importance of being transparent when new variants are found".

05:16 PM

£79m to be spent on mental health

"Growing up is tough at the best of times," Mr Hancock says.
He cites home schooling, not meeting friends, not playing sports and being stuck at home as some of the reasons why children have been pushed to their limits. He said that while returning to school on Monday will be exciting, he cautioned that "for some, it’s a moment of unease and anxiety".

"We need to make sure we get help to young people and get them through this," he said, confirming the £79m to boost men health support to young people.

05:13 PM

Real world data is promising

Deputy Pol Editor, Lucy Fisher, describes it as "extraordinarily good news".

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05:09 PM

The link is breaking

Mr Hancock says deaths from coronavirus have fallen by 41 percent in a week and that vaccines are having a big effect.

"The link is now breaking," he says.

"Right across the country, the country's plan is working."

He says he can tell us for the first time that "two fifths of the entire adult population of the UK".

05:02 PM

Matt Hancock has begun tonight's Downing Street briefing

The Health Secretary kicks off by saying Monday is the date children will return to schools.

He said he is also "so pleased" that from Monday care homes will be able to be reopened for visiting.

They will be tested and where PPE in order to visit.

04:32 PM

EU rejects claims it is hoarding jabs

Boris Johnson's accusation that the European Union is endangering the global fight against coronavirus will win him no friends in Brussels, James Crisp, Brussels Correspondent, writes.

The European Commission spent its midday press briefing fielding questions about the EU vaccine export ban triggered by Italy yesterday.

The chief spokesman rejected claims the bloc was hoarding the jabs, despite many of them going unused.

He said that the list of countries that had received doses from the European Union was “very impressive”.

The EU has approved 174 requests to export vaccines out of the EU to 30 countries, he said, and rejected a single request.

He said there was a list of a further 92 countries that were exempt from any export authorisation requirement and that the EU was involved in Covax mechanism, which is an international scheme to ensure vaccines get to less rich countries around the world.

04:10 PM

Lib Dems say Government 'consistently failed the NHS workers'

Munira Wilson MP , the Lib Dem spokesperson for Health and Social Care, is calling for a real-terms pay rise for NHS workers.

She said: “A real-terms pay cut is an insult to all the NHS workers who have gone above and beyond during this time of national crisis.
"They are burned out, traumatised, and stressed after over a year caring for hundreds of thousands of severely ill Covid patients."

Ms Wilson accused the Government of having "consistently failed the NHS workers", citing "dodgy PPE to the ludicrous bill for the Test and Trace system, now running to a staggering £37bn".

"It is scandalous that while some consultants earn more in one week than nurses earn in a whole year, the Government believes it is fair to cut NHS workers’ salaries," she said.

04:02 PM

Late afternoon read: Global Britain's divergence from EU has left Remainers with nowhere to hide

In this comment piece by Tom Harris, he writes that the "EU single market which Remainers so desperately wanted to stay in has become a lever by which the free trade has been restricted, not enhanced".

He writes: "Meanwhile, in xenophobic, intolerant Brexit Britain, the Government has insisted that the Oxford-AstaZeneca vaccine is distributed worldwide at cost – in other words, without profit – to developing countries."

The whole piece is here and it's well worth your time.

03:40 PM

Stay at home rules could be relaxed in Wales from next week

The Welsh Government will consider whether stay at home coronavirus regulations can be lifted at next week's review of the rules.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said ministers are debating whether to introduce a "stay local" requirement or to allow unlimited travel across the country.

He said the seven-day incidence rate across Wales has fallen to 50 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people - the lowest since mid-September.

The R number remains below one and the test positivity rate is 5.4 percent.

Mr Gething told the Welsh Government's press briefing in Cardiff on Friday: "Yesterday, there were fewer than 450 people with confirmed coronavirus in hospitals across Wales - that's the lowest number since October 17.

"As more people are vaccinated in Wales, we may be seeing a faster than anticipated fall in the number of people admitted to hospital."

Referencing First Minister Mark Drakeford's previous comments that the stay at home rule could be lifted, he said: "We're thinking about whether we should have a stay local period or whether there will be travel permitted across the whole of Wales.

"That's a choice the Government needs to make. We haven't concluded that. But there are very easy to understand arguments why we would want to have a period of 'stay local' before moving to wider travel."

He said current "essential travel only" restrictions in place in England mean that even if Wales was to allow people to move freely around the country, cross-border travel would still not be permitted.

03:11 PM

Government moves to unilaterally ease element of Brexit arrangements governing trade to Northern Ireland

The Government has moved to unilaterally ease another element of the contentious Brexit arrangements governing trade to Northern Ireland.

A ban on importing plants potted in soil from Great Britain to the region has been temporarily lifted.

While most agri-food goods are, or will be, subject to extra regulatory processes to enter Northern Ireland under the terms of Brexit's NI Protocol, some have been banned altogether.

That prohibited list includes plants or vegetables potted in British soil or with traces of soil still attached to them. This has caused problems for many businesses in Northern Ireland, particularly garden centres.

It has become somewhat of a touchstone issue in the public debate over the merits of the protocol, with its critics citing the ban on pot plants as evidence of excessive and disproportionate bureaucracy.

The Government has now relaxed the prohibitions related to soil.

02:37 PM

'slow claps'

The public is being urged to join a mass slow handclap against the Government's proposed 1 percent rise for NHS staff.

Unison said people should stand on their doorsteps and balconies to protest next Thursday (March 11) at 8pm to show what they think about the planned "derisory" wage increase.

The gesture of support for NHS workers should be repeated three weeks later on April 1, the day staff were due to have their next wage increase, said the union.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: "Millions stood on doorsteps and clapped for health staff who've given their all. Let's now stand up for their right to fair wages.

"Give the Chancellor a slow handclap for his miserly 1 percent. Times may be tough but this deal is below-inflation and derisory. It's like the worst of austerity is back.

"NHS staff have worked throughout the darkest days in health service history. They were expecting a fair increase that reflects their exceptional efforts.

"Nurses, midwives, porters, cleaners and other health workers are upset, hurt and angry. There were 100,000 vacancies even before Covid hit. Now the health service will be losing staff quicker than they can recruit new ones."

02:01 PM

Coronavirus has killed at least 17,000 frontline health workers globally

According to Amnesty International at least 17,000 health workers around the world have died of Covid-19, or one every half an hour in the last year.

However, those numbers are likely to be an underestimate as the data remains incomplete.

Follow The Telegraph's coronavirus live blog for more details on this story

01:55 PM

PM rejects Drakeford calls for new 'voluntary union'

Downing Street has shot down the Welsh First Minister’s suggestion that the Union is over and should be replaced by a “voluntary association” of countries.

Asked about Mark Drakeford’s comments, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said he “absolutely” did not share his views on the union.

Pressed on whether he believed the union was over, he added: “Absolutely not, no. The PM would not agree with those comments.”

01:49 PM

Global recovery from pandemic 'relies on international collaboration', No 10 says

Boris Johnson has challenged the EU’s decision to block exports of 250,000 AstraZeneca vaccines destined for Australia, warning that the restrictions “endangers” global efforts to combat the virus, Whitehall Editor, Harry Yorke writes.

Downing Street on Friday challenged the bloc’s decision to approve the Italian Government’s request to use EU-wide export controls to prevent the shipment from going ahead.

Asked about the controversy, the Prime Minister’s spokesman pointed out that Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, had previously assured Mr Johnson the controls would not be used in this way.

He added: "We're not privy to the specific agreements between other countries, and vaccine manufacturers. However, the PM spoke to President von der Leyen earlier this year, and she confirmed that the focus of their mechanism was on transparency and not intended to restrict exports by companies where they are filling contractual responsibilities.

“We would expect the EU to continue to stand by its commitments. The global recovery from COVID relies on international collaboration."

01:39 PM

Matt Hancock to lead tonight's press conference

Expect lots of questions on the nurses's pay rise as the Health Secretary leads the Downing Street press conference later this evening.

He will be joined by Public Health England's Dr Susan Hopkins.

01:25 PM

Daylesford farm shopping list

Boris Johnson pays for the cost of all food for "personal consumption" amid reports he has received organic food from Daylesford farm shop worth an estimated £12,500, Downing Street has said.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "The cost of food for personal consumption are entirely met personally by the Prime Minister."

He clarified that the personal consumption includes food eaten by the Prime Minister and his family.

12:49 PM

Nurses' pay rise is what is 'affordable', No 10 says

Downing Street has defended the proposed 1 percent pay rise for NHS staff, saying it was what was "affordable".

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We recognise the impact Covid has had on the NHS and we want to honour this.

"But the pandemic has real consequences and we have done all that we can to protect jobs and save livelihoods.

"The recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff is what is affordable while acknowledging their work and commitment over the last 12 months."

12:47 PM

Downing Street confirms General Sir Nick Carter will stay post until end of the year

The Telegraph revealed this morning that Sir Nick would be kept in post until the end of the year.

No 10 has since confirmed this and also revealed that Boris Johnson will announce the outcome of the Government's integrated review of foreign, defence, security and development policy on March 16.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said it would be followed by the publication of a detailed paper on March 22 setting out the Ministry of Defence's plans to modernise the armed forces.

The spokesman said Mr Johnson had asked the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, to continue in his role until the end of November to oversee the implementation of the process.

"General Nick has been central to setting our vision for our future armed forces," the spokesman said.

12:31 PM

UK 'poking EU in the eye', former No 10 chief of staff says

Mr Powell also criticised the Government's move to unilaterally delay the full implementation of the protocol, accusing it of unnecessarily "poking the EU in the eye" when it needed to work with the bloc to find solutions to the trade problems.

Mr Powell was involved in an initiative that saw a new umbrella group formed in 2015 to represent the main loyalist paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland.

That group - the Loyalist Communities Council - wrote to Mr Johnson and Taoiseach Micheal Martin this week to say the paramilitaries were temporarily withdrawing their support from the Good Friday Agreement in protest at the Protocol.

Mr Powell said he regretted the group's move but said he had received an assurance that it did not signal an intent to return to violence.

12:25 PM

Trade barriers between Northern Ireland and UK 'upsets balance' of unionism

The Northern Ireland Protocol undermines the guiding principles of the region's historic peace deal, a former No 10 chief of staff has warned.

Jonathan Powell, who worked for Tony Blair and was involved in negotiations that forged the Good Friday Agreement, said he understood why loyalists and unionists were upset by the economic border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Powell said the 1998 agreement offered protections for nationalists and unionists and gave both communities assurances that their respective identities and constitutional affiliations were being respected.

He said creating trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK upset that balance in respect of unionism.

However, Mr Powell questioned the stance of the region's main unionist party - the DUP - on the protocol, suggesting its vocal opposition was motivated less by principle and more by political fears of being outflanked by hard-line rivals.

11:45 AM

Breaking : Royal College of Nurses is setting up a strike fund

Deputy Political Editor, Lucy Fisher, hears that union is setting up a strike fund, in what appears to be the first step towards industrial action.

She says that a nurses' strike in the aftermath of a pandemic would not be a huge blow to Government.

11:27 AM

Health Secretary snapped out on a run, with some push ups thrown in for good measure

As the Government invests £100m in weight loss as a “national objective”, Matt Hancock has been out this morning showing how exercise and keeping weight under control goes hand in hand.

It is not known how many full push ups the Health Secretary completed - Jeremy Selwyn
It is not known how many full push ups the Health Secretary completed - Jeremy Selwyn

For the PM, it would seem his journey for losing weight has focused on cutting back on carbs, chocolate and "late night cheese". Mr Johnson said that his new weight has left him "full of beans".

Clearly, the same can be said for Mr Hancock this morning:

Matt Hancock added in some jumps as part of his exercise routine  - Jeremy Selwyn
Matt Hancock added in some jumps as part of his exercise routine - Jeremy Selwyn

11:11 AM

Gov source says it has to 'be fair to everyone' in response to 1% row

Political Editor, Ben Riley-Smith, sets out how the Government is responding to the feed back on the proposed pay increase:

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10:56 AM

Government needs to response to 'exceptional situation' regarding health care pay, senior Tory MP says

Sir Roger Gale accuses Government of acting in an "inept" way and says 1 percent pay rise for health workers is not enough.

The senior Tory backbencher said "more is needed" for health workers.

"I think the way that this has been presented and handled has been inept, and I have to say that," he told Radio 4.

"I'm not going to try and put a figure on this and it is expected that the Government will start low and the unions will start high, and normally there is an agreement reached somewhere in the middle."

Sir Roger said the UK faced "exceptional circumstances" and while he knew that over a period of three years nurses have had pay increases, "that is not what I think the public wants in terms of recognition of a wholly exceptional situation".

"And by the way, this isn't just about nurses; this is also about ancillary staff, the people who do the mopping up when people are dying or have died. We need to remember that as well. They seem to get forgotten, and they shouldn't be," he said.

10:21 AM

Government needs to be 'more generous' with nurses pay rise

Another senior Tory MP tells me the figure will have to change on the Government's proposed pay rise.

"The political reality is that they will need to be significantly more generous," he says.

"In any event there is an independent review body," they added.

09:59 AM

'People in private sector also suffered,' MP says

Interesting. Tory MPs are now giving anonymous briefings in support of the Government's policy, not wanting to publicly back it, seemingly because of how controversial it is proving.

One -unnamed - Tory MP said many people working in the private sector have worked throughout the pandemic and lost their jobs.

The MP said: "(NHS staff) have done a fantastic job during the pandemic, there's no doubt about it, but there are plenty of others in the private sector who have worked throughout as well and they've lost their jobs.

"It's a difficult situation and we've got to make sure that they are rewarded appropriately, and I think the fact that they have been excluded from the public sector pay freeze kind of says that, really."

09:32 AM

EU's behaviour 'belligerent', says DUP leader

Away from the nurses pay increase row, Arlene Foster has accused the EU of having taken a "very belligerent approach" to the difficulties caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol post-Brexit.

The DUP leader said "something had to give", and the UK had to take action and extend a grace period limiting red tape associated with the movement of goods from Great Britain into Northern Ireland.

The First Minister added she was "not entirely surprised" by the EU's threat to take legal action over the matter.

"They have taken a very belligerent approach to the difficulties the protocol have caused for Northern Ireland," she told the Today programme.

"It was quite clear to me that there wasn't going to be a meeting of minds. So the UK Government was going to have to take action, given that the grace period for goods in terms of supermarkets ended at the end of this month."

Mrs Foster said: "The number of checks that are occurring between Great Britain and Northern Ireland are so disproportionate to the risk to the EU single market that it has become completely out of step with what the protocol was meant to do."

"The protocol was meant to do two things. It was meant to protect the single market of the European Union, and it was meant to protect the Belfast agreement, and frankly, it is disproportionately doing one and damaging the other."

09:15 AM

Tory rebellion potentially brewing over nurses' pay

One senior Tory MP tells me the debate over nurses pay "is being handled so badly politically" that the "pay review body should be left to decide".

They said the Government "will have to" reverse its decision or risk losing public sympathy.

"All they needed to do was wait for the Independent Review and implement that," they said.

08:56 AM

Politicians venting fury over pay increase this morning

There are hundreds of reactions to pick from on Twitter when it comes to discussing the 1 percent pay rise.

Andy Burnham, Manchester Mayor, has queried how the Government had the funds to pay so much for Test and Trace but not enough to lift the pay of healthworkers:

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Meanwhile, Rachel Clarke, a palliative care doctor, has asked the same question:

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Overall the mood of Twitter this morning shows the many aggrieved by the amount of the rise.

08:24 AM

Nurses will still do their jobs because they 'love' their careers

Ms Dorries was also asked whether people would still be signing up to work for the NHS in light of the proposed one percent pay rise.

She told BBC Breakfast: "I believe nurses are about more than superficial soundbites, I think nurses love their job. They do their job because they love their job.

"I know myself, I was a nurse myself and trained as a nurse, I became a nurse because I loved nursing.

"I hope that those nurses who love their jobs too will stay in the NHS and stick with us through what is a difficult time."

08:06 AM

Nadine Dorries says government 'touched' by NHS workers but can't pay more than 1%

The Health Minister told Sky News: "Of course, we recognise the sacrifice and the commitment and the vocation of nurses and all health workers over the past year.

"We've all been touched by, or personally experienced, help by NHS workers.

"But I think it is important to note that the priority of the Government has been about protecting people's livelihoods, about continuing the furlough scheme, about fighting the pandemic, and we've put huge effort into that."

07:56 AM

Politics Today

Good morning.

There is a big row this morning as unions, the opposition and health workers themselves hit back at the Government's proposed one percent pay increase, which has been seen as a "kick in the teeth".

Many health workers have called into radio stations, with one nurse from Leeds calling into LBC Radio in tears, as she said: "I was there holding people's hands as they were dying. It's a true kick in the teeth.

"There're qualified nurses who've gone and worked at Aldi because they get more."

Nadine Dorries, the health and social care minister, has been sent out to bat for the Government this morning, insisting this is all they "can afford".

The Royal College of Nursing general secretary, Dame Donna Kinnair, said the "pitiful" increase was the equivalent of "£3.50 a week in take home pay for an experienced nurse".

"This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The Government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public," she said, warning it would do "nothing" to prevent the exodus from nursing.

Expect more reaction throughout the day.