Rishi Sunak warns NHS strikes could last for months as he rules out reopening wage offers – live | Policy

Good morning. Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are on strike again today. And health chiefs are even more worried about the impact of another dispute tomorrow, when ambulance staff in England and Wales take industrial action.

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Rishi Sunak is chairing cabinet this morning, and at 3pm he will take questions from the Commons liaison committee, probably for around 90 minutes. It will probably be the most extensive Q&A he has undergone since he became prime minister.

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But if anyone expects him to open the door to an early resolution of the health service strikes, they are likely to be disappointed. Sunak gave an interview to the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves yesterday in it he warned the public to be ready for the long haul. Here are the key lines.

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  • Sunak said the current round of strikes could go on for months. Asked if Britain could face months of strikes, Sunak replied:

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Yeah. Look, I’m going to keep making the same arguments I’ve been making.

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The government is acting fairly and reasonably and will always continue to do so. I’m going to do what I think is right for the long-term interests of the country – combating inflation.

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The government is doing everything it can to be responsible and put in place contingency measures to support people, but ultimately I will continue to urge the unions to call off the strike because that’s what is causing disruption to people’s lives – that is what is having an impact on their health.

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  • He implied it was too late to improve the pay offer for the 2022-23 financial year. Groves reports:

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[Sunak] flatly rejected reports that he was preparing a climbdown in his trial of strength with union leaders. The PM said it was too late to improve on pay offers in a financial year that was ‘basically finished’.

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  • But Sunak implied that unions might get a more generous pay offer for 2023-24 if they called off strikes now. “Offering an olive branch to workers, [Sunak] hinted that next year’s pay round could be more generous if union members behaved responsibly now,” Groves reports. He goes on:

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Mr Sunak said it was too late in the financial year to unpick the settlement – and suggested the unions should focus on making the case for an improved pay deal next year. ‘We do need to think about what’s the right approach for next year,’ he said. ‘Of course that’s a conversation we will have with the unions, with the pay review bodies, as we think about the right pay settlements.’

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Here is the agenda for the day.

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9.30am: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.

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10am: NHS England, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the GMB and the College of Paramedics give evidence to the Commons health committee about the ambulance strikes.

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11.30am: Downing Street holds its lobby briefing.

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11.30am: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.

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After 12.30pm: MPs hold a debate on the forthcoming adjournment, which allows them to raise any topic they want.

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3pm: Sunak takes questions from the Commons liaision committee.

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I’ll 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.

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

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

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Key events

Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on strike

Hello. Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are on strike again today. And health chiefs are even more worried about the impact of another dispute tomorrow, when ambulance staff in England and Wales take industrial action.

Rishi Sunak chairs the cabinet this morning and at 3 p.m. he will take questions from the House of Commons Liaison Committee, probably for about 90 minutes. It will probably be the most in-depth question and answer session he has undergone since becoming prime minister.

But if anyone expects him to open the door to a quick resolution to the health service strikes, they may be disappointed. Sunak gave an interview to the Daily Mail’s Jason Groves yesterday he warned the public to be ready for the long haul. Here are the key lines.

Yeah. Look, I’m going to keep making the same points I made.

The government is acting fairly and reasonably and will always continue to do so. I’m going to do what I think is right for the long term interests of the country – fight inflation.

The government is doing everything it can to be responsible and put in place emergency measures to support people, but at the end of the day I will continue to urge the unions to call off the strike because that is what is disrupting people’s lives – that’s what impacts their health.

[Sunak] flatly rejected reports that he was plotting a raid on his showdown with union leaders. The Prime Minister said it was too late to improve wage offers in a financial year that was “essentially complete”.

  • But Sunak hinted the unions could secure a more generous wage offer for 2023-24 if they call off the strikes now. “To offer an olive branch to the workers, [Sunak] hinted that next year’s pay round could be more generous if union members behaved responsibly now,” groves reports. He pursues :

Mr Sunak said it was too late in the financial year to overturn the settlement – and suggested unions should focus on pushing for a better pay deal next year. “We have to think about the right approach for next year,” he said. “Of course, that’s a conversation we’ll have with the unions, with the wage review bodies, as we think about the right wage deals.”

Here is the program for the day.

9:30 a.m.: Rishi Sunak chairs the cabinet.

10 a.m.: NHS England, the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, the GMB and the College of Paramedics give evidence to the Commons Health Committee over the ambulance strikes.

11:30 a.m.: Downing Street holds its briefing in the lobby.

11:30 a.m.: Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, answers questions in the Commons.

After 12:30 p.m.: Members hold a debate on the upcoming adjournment, allowing them to discuss any subject they wish.

3 p.m.: Sunak answers questions from the Commons Liaison Committee.

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

If you want to get my attention quickly, it’s probably best to use Twitter. I’m on it @AndrewSparrow.

You can also email me at andrew.sparrow@theguardian.com.

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