LONDON — Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has urged Prime Minister Theresa May to scrap the 1% cap on public sector pay rises, becoming the latest senior Conservative to put pressure on May to ease austerity.
A senior government source told the Guardian: “The foreign secretary supports the idea of public-sector workers getting a better pay deal and believes the findings of the pay review bodies should be respected.”
May and Chancellor Philip Hammond have both come under increasing pressure from Tories both within the cabinet and on the backbenches to scrap the public sector pay cap, following the shock general election result where her Conservative Party lost its parliamentary majority.
Last week Tory MPs including former party chairman Grant Shapps reportedly visited the prime minister to demand that she change the policy, in a week where it appeared the government was preparing to shift its position.
There was chaos over the government’s position on Wednesday, when the policy appeared to change to scrapping the cap, before the prime minister appeared to perform a U-turn on the U-turn, denying the pay cap was to be removed.
Downing Street acknowledged that the public was “weary” of cuts before insisting later in the day that “the policy has not changed.”
The cap was introduced by former prime minister David Cameron in 2010 and has resulted in public sector pay being frozen at one per cent rises for the last seven years. May and her chancellor Philip Hammond have both insisted that the cap will remain until at least 2019, but increasingly Conservative MPs have spoken out against the measure.
On Sunday Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said that the government “should listen to the pay review bodies who govern each individual area of public sector pay,” and that ministers should respect the “integrity” of the pay review process.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has also said that above-inflation wage increases for the public sector is something that government must think about enacting.
“This is something we have to consider, not just for the army, but right across the public sector as a whole,” he said.
The Conservative minority government defeated a Labour amendment during the Queen’s speech debate which called for an end to the public sector pay cap plus a reversal of cuts to public services. The Tories defeated the amendment with the aid of the Democratic Unionist Party by 323 votes to 309.