Rail strike looms as minister says pay rises cannot match inflation – UK politics live | Politics

Clarke rejects claims from airline bosses that Brexit to blame for staff shortages affecting passengers at airports

In his Sky News interview Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, was also asked about the chaos that some travelers have been experiencing at airports this summer because of staff shortages.

  • Clarke rejected claims from airline bosses that Brexit was to blame for the problems the travallers are facing at airports. Asked if Brexit was responsible, he replied:

No. I think what we’re seeing here is the results of the airline industry, having obviously massively contracted during the pandemic, now it’s facing this surge of pent-up demand as things stand back up. And, truth be told, it isn’t resourced and manned for that challenge. That’s why I think it is sensible that what we’re starting to see now is some of the airports revising their schedules.

When it was put to him that people like Michael O’Leary, head of Ryanair, and József Váradi, head of Wizz Air, are blaming Brexit (see here and here), Clarke replied:

Ultimately, I think the British people made their views very clear on unlimited immigration from the EU. And there were very good reasons why we voted to have a controlled immigration policy.

But I do not accept that this is simply a direct, pass-through effect from Brexit. What I would say is this is a result of an industry which massively slimmed down, and understandably so at a time when flying was well nigh impossible for a year and a half, two years.

It’s now massively expanded its operations and the pressure is enormous and it hasn’t managed to align the two.

Clarke, a Brexiter, is one of the ministers most reluctant to admit that Brexit has caused problems for the economy. Last year he refused to accept that Brexit was a factor in the UK experiencing a shortage of HGV drivers – even though Boris Johnson subsequently argued that higher wages paid to HGV drivers in response to the labor shortage would be part of his Brexit bonus.

  • Clarke said that airlines were currently “offering flights they simply can’t honor” and that that was “terrible for passengers”.

Minister suggests Bank of England governor was right in February to warn about dangers of inflationary pay demands

And here are some more lines from what Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to and the Treasury, said in his morning interviews about the rail strike, and pay awards generally.

  • Clarke was unable to explain why No 10 slapped down the governor of the Bank of England earlier this year for saying people should not expect big pay rises – when he is now saying exactly the same thing. (See 9.21am.) Asked why Andrew Bailey was rebuked by No 10 for his comment, Clarke just said: “Ultimately what a spokesperson has said is for them.” In February Bailey said:

I’m not saying nobody gets a pay rise, don’t get me wrong, but I think what I’m saying is we do need to see restraint in pay bargaining otherwise it will get out of control.

This morning, asked if he was saying people in the public sector should not expect a pay rise in line with inflation, Clarke replied: “Correct.”

  • He defended the government’s decision not to get directly involved in the talks between management and the rail unions ahead of this week’s strike. “Ultimately, it will only confuse things if we add a third party to these negotiations,” he told the Today program.
  • He said the rail industry needed structural reform. He told Sky News:

The train operating companies and Network Rail are working to deliver a sensible program of reform and a sensible and fair pay deal with the trade unions.

The practices that are in place across the network are out with the ark, frankly, and need to be reformed.

It cannot be the case that we have put in £ 16bn during the pandemic as taxpayers, worth £ 600 per household, and still have a railway system where some of what goes on occurs and where, frankly, fares are higher than they need to be and efficiency is lower than it should be because of the way the trade unions operate.

  • He said he thought “very, very few people” – in the private or public sector – would be getting pay offers in double figures. “I think it would be highly unsustainable if they were to do so,” he claimed.
  • But he also claimed that he expected public sector workers to be offered “good” pay offers – even though he stressed that they would not match the level inflation is due to reach this year. (See 9.21am.) He told Sky News:

From what I understand, and it is early days, [proposed public sector pay] awards are coming in at a sensible level, which is great. It does mean that there will be a good pay offers, I think, on the table for public sector workforces.

It’s important that we wait and see what those awards are, and then it will obviously be for individual workforces and the trade unions to respond.

But I do think people have to recognize, if we’re going to forestall the evil of inflation – inflation destroys savings, it destroys growth. It damages any economy where it gets an endemic grip – then we are going to have to show collective, society-wide responsibility.

Treasury minister says workers in private and public sectors should not expect pay rises to match inflation

Good morning. Inflation is at its highest level for 40 years and Britain’s return to the economic landscape of the 1970s / 1980s will take a step forward this week with the biggest national railstrike for a generation. In several other key public services, unions are also threatening strike action this summer. This is from my colleague Gwyn Topham on the rail strikes.

The issues are slightly different for different sectors, but at the heart of this week’s rail strike, and all the other potential walkouts that may come later, is pay. With inflation heading towards 11%, real-terms pay is falling.

Simon Clarkechief secretary to the Treasury, has been giving interviews this morning and he delivered what may be the bluntest message yet from a government minister that workers can’t expect pay rises that will match inflation.

Stressing that this was a message for people in the private sector as well as in the public sector, Clarke told the Today program:

In the current landscape of inflation at 9, bordering 10%, it is not a sustainable expectation that inflation can be matched in pay offers. That is not something that’s going to be seen – across, frankly, the private sector as well as the public sector.

We cannot get into a world where we are chasing inflation expectations in that way because that is the surest way I can think of to bake in the repeat of the 1970s which this government is determined to prevent.

I will post more from Clarke’s interviews, and the strike-related items on the morning programs, shortly.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

2.30pm: Priti Patel, the home secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

3pm: Alistair Jack, the Scottish secretary, gives evidence to the Commons Scottish affairs committee.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com

Simon Clarke
Simon Clarke Photograph: Sky News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.