Britain's opposition Labour to force vote on May's austerity, pay cap

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 28, 2017 3:10 AM

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's opposition Labour Party will try to force Theresa May to end restrictive public sector pay rises on Wednesday, adding pressure on the prime minister as a lost election gamble forces her to reshape her political agenda.

May, whose governing Conservative Party relinquished its parliamentary majority in the June 8 election, has signaled that she will listen more closely to Britons who are weary of cuts that some blame for a fire in west London that killed at least 79 people.

But in an amendment to her government's program, which requires parliamentary approval, Labour lawmakers will challenge a cap on public sector pay rises, limited to a below-inflation 1 percent a year for several years as the government seeks to reduce its budget deficit.

Its leftist leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said the fire and attacks by Islamist militants made it clear that emergency service workers "deserve the pay rise they have been denied for seven years".

"You can't have safety and security on the cheap. It is plain to see that seven years of cuts to our emergency services has made us less safe; it's time to make a change," Corbyn said in a statement.

May's spokesman said the government was "listening" to voters' voices on austerity, and would consider recommendations from pay review bodies before spelling out its policy on pay in a budget statement later this year - a signal it may be reconsidering its position.

The vote, on the amendment that is due to take place later on Wednesday, will be the first of many expected tests of the prime minister's ability to govern after she sealed a deal with a small Northern Irish party to pass legislation in parliament.

Why is Anyone a Socialist?
John C. Goodman

May's party won 318 seats in the election, so with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party's 10 lawmakers, she has a slender working majority in the 650-seat parliament.

But the British leader is taking no chances. Her foreign minister, Boris Johnson, was called back for the vote from Switzerland, where he was leading the British delegation in peace talks for the divided country of Cyprus.

U.N. spokesman Aleem Siddique said: "The UK remains represented at the conference and we expect ministerial representation at some point in the proceedings."

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Guy Faulconbridge, editing by John Stonestreet)