Lib Dems try to block regional pay in public sector

David Cornock
Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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In the end, a debate did take place, although it was a rather one-sided affair. A vote calling on the UK government to halt any expansion of regional pay in the public sector was carried overwhelmingly.

In a 45-minute debate, three Lib Dem activists did speak in favour of ending national pay deals but the mood of the hall was more in tune with those, largely from Cornwall and Wales, who feared the impact in their areas.

Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said local pay would leave parts of the UK with the prospect of a talent drain as the "best public sector workers leave for richer pastures".

He said: "There is a problem in that in the UK, parts of the country have a private sector that is less competitive on wages than the public sector. Let's do all we can to stimulate the private sector rather than bring the publicsector down. "This should not become a race to the bottom for wages of people in the poorer areas. We will not solve the vast inequalities that exist in this country by paying poorer people less."

Lower wages, he said, would mean less money in the local economy, which would mean the private sector suffered too.

The vote, you won't be surprised to learn, isn't binding on the uk government but, whatever the economic arguments, George Osborne will face strong political opposition from some in his own party should he press ahead with local pay deals.