Unions' pay demands would cost each household £1,000, says No10

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured in 10 Downing Street on December 7 - Simon Walker/No10 Downing Street
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured in 10 Downing Street on December 7 - Simon Walker/No10 Downing Street

Agreeing to double-digit pay rises across the whole of the public sector would cost every household in the UK £1,000, Downing Street has said.

No10 today restated its opposition to granting pay rises in line with inflation as it argued such a move would "embed" soaring prices which it described as "our shared enemy".

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "It is inflation that is our shared enemy and if we were to push ahead with double-digit pay deals across the public sector, at a cost of £28 billion, that’s a cost of £1,000 per household.

"That would embed inflation, which currently is expected to fall significantly next year. So we would be acting against everyone’s interests if we were to take all the demands and meet them in full."

Strike action has now been scheduled for the Christmas period across a range of public service areas as the row over pay and conditions escalates.

You can follow the latest updates below. 

04:00 PM

That is all for today...

Thank you for joining me for today's politics live blog.

My colleague Dominic Penna will be guiding you through the key developments tomorrow.

03:47 PM

Shadow chancellor predicts 'years of wrangling' over coal mine decision

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has predicted "months and years of wrangling" over the Government's decision yesterday to approve the UK's first deep coal mine in more than 30 years (see the post below at 08.05).

She also claimed the decision showed Rishi Sunak is a "fossil fuel prime minister in the age of renewables".

She told the BBC: "I think that we have got months and years of wrangling about this coal mine. Labour's Green Prosperity Plan is about investing in the future. We have got a fossil fuel prime minister in the age of renewables."

03:12 PM

'The public want to see more grip'

Christopher Hope, The Telegraph's associate editor, argues in today's Chopper's Politics Newsletter that voters "want to see more grip" from Rishi Sunak as the nation braces for strikes chaos:

A Cabinet minister today insisted that the Government is actually running the country. This is, as they say, a start.

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, was asked the question during an interview on GB News. She replied: "Well of course we are running the country but the unions are disrupting aspects of public service which is incredibly disappointing."

The fact that Keegan - a well respected and competent Cabinet minister - had to say this goes to the heart of the current problem with Number 10.

Rishi Sunak might be lying low - although he came out for a couple of interviews yesterday - but the public want to see more grip.

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02:27 PM

SNP MP quits frontbench role

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02:25 PM

Conservative jumps ship to Reform UK as talks continue with MPs about more defections

A senior member of the voluntary Conservative Party has defected to the Right-wing party Reform UK, amid signs of frustration with the direction of Rishi Sunak's leadership.

There are fears now of further defections with party leader Richard Tice telling The Telegraph today that conversations are continuing "across the board" with councillors and Tory MPs about joining Reform UK.

You can read the full story here.

02:00 PM

Poll: Labour holds 24 point lead over Tories

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01:19 PM

Tory MP urges Government to 'get a grip' on strike action

A Conservative MP has told the Government to get a "grip" of the industrial action which is set to cause significant disruption in the coming weeks.

Speaking during the business statement in the House of Commons, Sir Christopher Chope asked Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt: "Can I ask why there’s nothing in her statement about the disruption to lives and livelihoods being caused by strikes over the next month?

"We’ve heard rumours that the Government’s going to bring in emergency legislation, there’s nothing referred to in her statement and we’re now going to have a recess for about a month.

"Is she expecting these strikes to disrupt lives with impunity up until 9 January and what’s going to happen after that? Isn’t it time that the Government got a grip on this?"

Ms Mordaunt said: "The minimum services legislation has already been introduced but he will know that the Prime Minister is giving this his attention as a priority and is looking at what further things we can do to ensure that the public can rely on basic levels of service across these very important areas."

12:52 PM

Rachel Reeves: Government alone deserves blame for strikes

Rachel Reeves said the Government alone deserves the blame for the current wave of strikes, writes Dominic Penna.

Asked if she would take the chance to tell union bosses to call off the strikes, Ms Reeves, the shadow chancellor, replied: "People have got no one to blame but the Government for this industrial action.

“Even at this late stage, the Government needs to be doing more to avert the further industrial action on the railways, but also the industrial action that is now going to be taking place in in our hospitals.”

Pressed on upcoming strike laws, Ms Reeves said Labour would oppose them "every step of the way".

12:40 PM

'We’re not looking to worsen our relations with any group'

No10 said it believes the Government has "acted reasonably" on the issue of public sector pay rises and that promises to introduce further anti-strike legislation are not designed to worsen relations with unions.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "What we are looking to do is to keep people safe and keep the country moving. Those are our aims, we’re not looking to worsen our relations with any group.

"We believe we’ve acted reasonably when it comes to both agreeing the payoff as recommended by the independent boards and in facilitating the discussions we need to reach some sort of resolution.

"Given what we’re seeing and the need to protect people from inflation we must also go further and consider further powers to try and mitigate against some of the disruption."

12:23 PM

Downing Street concedes strikes will inconvenience armed forces personnel

Downing Street has conceded that the strikes this Christmas will be disruptive for Army personnel who are asked to cover vital services.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "These rolling strikes will cause disruption to everyone and that does also include our military personnel who will be required unfortunately to have to step in and backfill some of these vital roles we need to keep the country moving.

"We recognise that they have been called on to do this before and I’m sure the public thanks them once again for the work they’re preparing to do."

12:20 PM

No10 warns against double digit public sector pay rises

Downing Street said giving double-digit pay rises across the public sector would "embed inflation" and be "acting against everyone’s interests".

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "It is inflation that is our shared enemy and if we were to push ahead with double-digit pay deals across the public sector, at a cost of £28 billion, that’s a cost of £1,000 per household.

"That would embed inflation, which currently is expected to fall significantly next year. So we would be acting against everyone’s interests if we were to take all the demands and meet them in full.”

12:18 PM

'I’m not going to pluck numbers out of the air'

Rachel Reeves refused to say whether a Labour government would give public sector workers the pay rises they are demanding amid widespread industrial action.

Asked the question at the party’s business conference in central London today, Labour’s shadow chancellor said: "I’m not going to pluck numbers out of the air and I’ve said that everything in the Labour manifesto will be fully costed and fully funded..."

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, is pictured today at Labour's business conference in Canary Wharf, London - Stefan Rousseau /PA
Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, is pictured today at Labour's business conference in Canary Wharf, London - Stefan Rousseau /PA

12:08 PM

SNP MP quits frontbench role and criticises party's new Westminster leader

An SNP MP has quit his frontbench role and criticised the party's new Westminster leader.

Pete Wishart has resigned as the SNP's environment spokesman and said in a letter to Stephen Flynn that he was "bemused as to the reasons why you felt it was necessary to seek a change in our leadership".

Mr Flynn replaced Ian Blackford as the SNP's leader in Westminster this week after the latter decided to step down amid speculation of an effort to oust him.

Mr Wishart said in his letter to Mr Flynn: "I remain bemused as to the reasons why you felt it was necessary to seek a change in our leadership, particularly when we see yesterday’s opinion poll, which shows support for independence at a near all-time high and support for the SNP at Westminster at an unprecedented 51%.

“Usually change of this significance accompanies failure, whereas we are looking only at sustained and growing success as a movement and party."

Mr Wishart told Mr Flynn that he has his "full support".

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11:48 AM

Rachel Reeves declines to say if Labour would agree to 19% pay rise for nurses

Rachel Reeves declined to say whether a Labour government would agree to a 19 per cent pay rise demand from the Royal College of Nursing.

The shadow chancellor would not be drawn on numbers and just said the party would "get round the negotiating table to resolve these disputes".

Asked if Labour would agree to a 19 per cent pay rise, Ms Reeves said: "Well, what Keir has said today and what I have said previously is that we would get round the negotiating table to resolve these disputes.

"Earlier this week we had a vote in parliament on whether the non-dom tax regime should continue or whether those loopholes should be closed and the money used instead - £3.2 billion - to invest in one of the biggest expansions of the NHS workforce in a generation.

"It is saying, if you will, to NHS workers the cavalry is coming under Labour. Now the Tories voted against that. It is a matter of priorities."

11:31 AM

UK is at a 'post-Brexit crossroads' - Rachel Reeves

Britain is at a "post-Brexit crossroads", Rachel Reeves said this morning as she urged "bold thinking" on the economy, writes Dominic Penna.

The shadow chancellor noted Britain’s relative lack of venture capital investment and insisted it must become a "high-growth", startup-friendly economy.

She said: "We can go down the road of managed decline, falling behind… or we can see some on the bold thinking that is needed to propel us forward to shape Britain's future outside the European Union, while improving trading relationships with our nearest and closest neighbours.”

Ms Reeves went on to call for "creativity and determination and a bit of common sense", reaffirming her party’s pledges to abolish business rates and grant regions more powers.

11:14 AM

Home Secretary tells people to 'think carefully' about Christmas travel plans

Suella Braverman has told holidaymakers to "think carefully" about their Christmas travel plans after Border Force staff announced strike action.

The Home Secretary told broadcasters this morning: "I really want to urge people who have got plans to travel abroad to think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted."

She added: "Ultimately I am not willing to compromise on security at the border. That is the number one priority. That may well have an adverse impact on convenience for people, frankly, whether it is the time that they may have to wait for flights or departures, they may well be delayed on arrivals and various travel plans.

"Ultimately security at the border is my number one non-negotiable priority."

Ms Braverman said that if the strikes go ahead "there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans".

11:10 AM

Starmer accuses Tories of 'sticking-plaster politics'

Sir Keir Starmer used a speech to business leaders in London this morning to criticise the Tory governments of the last 12 years for their "failure to seize the opportunities", "short-termism" and "sticking-plaster politics".

The Labour leader continued: "What I’m focused on is how Labour can remedy that historic wrong because it’s going to be our job to tackle the long-term challenges to give Britain a new business model."

11:07 AM

Sir Keir Starmer: 'We are a party that is proud of being pro-business'

Sir Keir Starmer is addressing a Labour business conference which is taking place in Canary Wharf in central London this morning.

He said the party under his leadership is "proud of being pro-business".

He said: "We are going to be the first ever government to win power in order to give it away. Or more accurately to put it where it is going tobe most effective.

"But why? It is simple. Because I don't believe you simply rebuild a country and an economy from Whitehall. I don't believe that individual businesses can do it on their own either.

"I believe that to drive Britain forwards we need a partnership and I am here to say Labour is ready, ready to partner with you because we are not just a pro-business party, we are a party that is proud of being pro-business. And make no mistake that is a matter of conviction for me and I have united our party behind it."

10:38 AM

Julian Knight: Removal of Tory whip 'wrong and unjustified'

A senior MP who has had the Tory whip removed after a complaint was made to the police has branded the move “wrong and unjustified”, and suggested he could be the target of a “campaign of rumour and innuendo”.

Julian Knight said he will be recusing himself from Parliament until the matter is resolved.

The Conservatives removed the whip from Mr Knight yesterday after a complaint was made to the Metropolitan Police, the party said, meaning he no longer sits in the Commons as a Tory.

In a series of tweets, Mr Knight said: “I have heard nothing from the police, the Whips Office or Parliament’s Internal Grievance Service, or been the subject of any investigation by the latter. Nor have I ever been warned or spoken to by the Whips Office about any allegations of misconduct.

“I believe their withdrawal of the whip is wrong and unjustified."

10:20 AM

'Behind the statistics are people suffering'

Wes Streeting, Labour's shadow health secretary, said "behind the statistics are people suffering" after the NHS treatment backlog hit a new record high (see the post below at 09.57).

He said: "The NHS is heading into this winter with more people waiting for treatment than at any time in history, and they are waiting longer than ever before.

"Behind the statistics are people suffering, sometimes for months or even years, putting their lives on hold because of their pain and discomfort.

"The Government should be doing everything it can to bring down waiting lists, including using spare capacity in the private sector. No one should be waiting in pain while hospital beds that could be used lie empty.

"But we also need to tackle the root cause of this crisis. Labour will train 7,500 more doctors and 10,000 more nurses a year, so patients can be treated on time again, paid for by abolishing non-doms."

09:59 AM

Number of people waiting more than a year for hospital treatment increases

The number of people waiting for more than a year to start NHS hospital treatment continues to climb above 400,000, new statistics published this morning have revealed.

NHS England numbers showed an estimated 410,983 people in England had been waiting more than 52 weeks to start hospital treatment at the end of October.

That is up from 404,851 at the end of September, and is the equivalent of around one in 18 people on the entire waiting list.

The Government and NHS England have set the ambition of eliminating all waits of more than a year by March 2025.

09:57 AM

NHS treatment backlog hits new record high

The scale of the challenges facing the NHS have been laid bare this morning after new statistics showed the number of people in England waiting to start routine hospital treatment has risen to a new record high.

An estimated 7.2 million people were waiting to start treatment at the end of October, NHS England said.

That is up from 7.1 million in September and is the highest number since records began in August 2007.

09:36 AM

Gillian Keegan suggests NHS staff could have right to strike restricted

Gillian Keegan has suggested health workers could have their right to strike restricted as part of Rishi Sunak's pledge to introduce tough new legislation to curb industrial action.

She told LBC Radio: "Well yes, I mean, I think we do have some areas where strikes are not allowed as part of the contract. So, for example, the military can’t go on strike and the police. There’s some people… as a matter of public safety, you can’t go on strike.

"And I think what we’re looking at is, you know, are there other areas that we should include in that? Health would be one to look at and other areas of critical infrastructure."

08:59 AM

'We don't support new legislation to make it harder to take industrial action'

Rachel Reeves, Labour's shadow chancellor, said Labour will not support Rishi Sunak's proposed new anti-strike laws.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't support new legislation to make it harder to take industrial action, that stops people from withdrawing their labour.

"What we would be doing in government is not messing around with those laws but getting round the table and resolving these disputes..."

Asked if a Labour government would water down anti-strike legislation, she said: "We want to ensure that these strikes aren't happening... the Government are talking about making it harder for people to take industrial action. That is not our approach. Our approach is about sitting round the table and negotiating with working people."

Asked directly if a Labour governbment would repeal the Trade Union Act 2016, she said: "We have said that we would repeal that legislation. The thing that is encouraging people to strike is the lack of respect being shown from the Government. Even with this restrictive legislation people are voting to take industrial action.

"They are voting to take industrial action because they feel so let down by this government."

08:53 AM

Rachel Reeves claims Tories failing to treat workers with 'respect and dignity'

The Labour Party has pledged to rip up strike laws if it comes to power. Sir Keir Starmer will repeal the 2016 Trade Union Act, which imposes a series of conditions on unions that want to go on strike (you can read the full story here).

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, was asked this morning if it is the party's intention to make it easier to go on strike.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't want people to go on strike which is why under a Labour government we would be sitting down negotiating with the key workers who are looking at taking industrial action."

Ms Reeves said the current wave of industrial action is "happening because the Conservative Government are failing to treat with respect and dignity the working people who kept our economy going during the Covid pandemic who are now being left out to dry by the Conservative Govt that doesn't respect the contribution they made to our society and to our economy".

08:35 AM

'Duty to this country is what our military do'

Told that some in the military are unhappy at soldiers being drafted in to cover striking public sector workers (see the post below at 08.27), Gillian Keegan said armed forces personnel "have a sense of duty".

The Education Secretary told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We all owe our military a massive thank you. Not only do they keep us safe and do the most incredibly hard job and often away from their own families, but they are also the backup and 2,000 military personnel have been trained to help in the situation where ambulance drivers are on strike."

She added: "They have a sense of duty, they don't have a right to strike... duty to this country is what our military do and we should all be very thankful for their service."

08:27 AM

Army fury as soldiers told to give up their Christmas to cover striking workers

Soldiers should not be made to give up Christmas to cover for striking NHS workers who earn more than them, senior military figures have told ministers.

The Government is set to rely on hundreds of Armed Forces personnel to stand in for Border Force officers at airports during eight days of strikes this December, and potentially to cover for ambulance drivers and firefighters as well.

But The Telegraph has been told that the military believes it is "not right" for soldiers, who are banned by law from striking themselves, to replace striking public sector workers over the festive season.

You can read the full story here.

08:15 AM

Nation should be 'extremely grateful' to soldiers for helping during strikes

Gillian Keegan said the nation should be "extremely grateful" to 2,000 soldiers who will fill in for striking Border Force staff over the festive period.

The Education Secretary told Sky News: "It’s very disappointing that Border Force will be striking over Christmas. We are doing our best to mitigate as far as possible. So in the case of Border Force, we’ve got 2,000 military personnel who are trained who are going to try and mitigate and try and help with some of those roles at the border.

"But you know, we do expect there will be disruption and delays but they will do their best and they’re also helping with the health service as well."

Asked if it is fair that soldiers who are paid less than those going on strike have to cover for them, she said: "Well, I think we should be extremely grateful for them for doing that."

08:11 AM

Education Secretary 'hopes' teacher strike is not inevitable

Gillian Keegan said the Government had "tried our very best" to meet teachers’ demands and hopes the pay settlement offered is "enough" to prevent strikes from going ahead.

Asked whether a teacher strike is inevitable, the Education Secretary told Times Radio: "I very much hope not. Obviously the teachers are balloting at the moment but our children have missed enough education through the pandemic.

"So we’re very much hoping that the £2 billion settlement… is enough. We’ve accepted the pay recommendations in full – between 5% and 8.9% depending on whether you’re an experienced teacher or a new teacher. So we’ve tried our very best to meet all the requirements."

She added that what the unions are asking for is "a lot higher" than what the independent pay review body recommended.

08:05 AM

Gillian Keegan says green light for new coal mine is a 'common sense decision'

Michael Gove yesterday approved the UK’s first deep coal mine in more than 30 years after conceding that new green technologies are unlikely to replace the fossil fuel’s role in steel-making for many years (you can read the full story here).

The decision prompted an immediate backlash and it is expected to spark a legal challenge from climate activists.

Gilliam Keegan, the Education Secretary, labelled it a "common sense decision", telling GB News: "Of course people are worried about the signalling but it is still our intent to phase out coal and this is a very, very specific industrial use just to produce steel.”

Asked if the decision represented a step backwards, she said: "This has actually been talked about for a long time. There is a lot of local support, it has been passed by the Labour council, by three planning inspectors, and you know this is a common sense decisions.

"It is in the north, it is going to bring brilliant jobs to that area and as I say there is a lot of local support around Whitehaven… for this mine."

07:57 AM

Cabinet minister: 'Some of the unions are determined to spoil Christmas for everybody'

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, said she believes "some of the unions are determined to spoil Christmas for everybody".

Asked why it is taking the Government so long to bring forward its long-promised anti-strike laws, Ms Keegan told GB News: "These things do take time. Obviously we have had a little bit of disruption to our legislative programme as well.

"We are the only party that would introduce this legislation by the way and it is important, it is going to be introduced.

"You always hope not to do this, right, you know, you hope that you can have sensible working relationships but it looks like there has been a breakdown of those and some of the unions are determined to spoil Christmas for everybody."

07:55 AM

Gillian Keegan: New anti-strike laws will 'take time'

Rishi Sunak yesterday pledged to introduce "tough" new anti-strike laws but the Government is under pressure to explain why it has not brought forward such legislation sooner.

Asked why the Prime Minister does not "get on with" the laws, Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, told GB News: "Well yes, they are going to go through, I think they have been introduced, they are going to go through parliament.

"They do take time. That is true. They do take time. But we do have I think 2,000 military personnel who are trained and ready to support us."

07:53 AM

Cabinet minister insists the Government is 'running the country'

A Cabinet minister has insisted that it is the Government, and not trade unions, that are "running the country".

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, was asked the question this morning during an interview on GB News and she said: "Well of course we are running the country but the unions are disrupting aspects of public service which is incredibly disappointing.

"We have been through a lot as a country and we still continue to go through trying to recover from the pandemic and obviously deal with inflation and the rise in energy costs which all of us are dealing with.

"So it is incredibly disappointing, particularly over Christmas."

07:51 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.

The Government is under mounting pressure to explain why it has not acted sooner to bring in tough new anti-strike laws as each new day seems to bring the announcement of fresh public sector walkouts.

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, is on the broadcast round for the Government and she has been defending its handling of the situation while also insisting ministers are still running the country rather than the unions.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer is set to address a Labour business conference later today when he will almost certainly face questions about his position on the walkouts.

I will guide you through the key developments.