George Eustice squirms over nurses' pay in excruciating exchange after Dua Lipa calls on Boris to give more at BRITs

NURSES are being given a real terms pay cut, a top minister was forced to admit today in an excruciating TV schooling after Dua Lipa used the BRITs to urge Boris Johnson to green light a salary increase.

Environment secretary George Eustice was left squirming when he was confronted with the pop star's calls for the PM to up his offer of a 1% rise for our NHS heroes.

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During an awkward exchange on BBC Breakfast the Cabinet big beast was peppered with questions about the proposal, which he tried in vain to defend.

It came after Dua Lipa used last night's BRITs ceremony – which was attended by a slew of Tory ministers and MPs – to demand the PM offers frontline NHS staff more.

She also name-dropped Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu at the O2 Arena last night in front of an audience made up of key workers, and praised the nurse who has been a pioneer for change and for women for decades.

Asked about her remarks this morning, Mr Eustice said a pay rise had been offered but "it's a difficult public finance environment as well, so you can't always go as far as you'd like".

He added: "There's been a pay freeze for most of the public sector and it's also important to recognise that in recent years that there have been some pay rises as well, particularly for nurses and the lower paid."

But the remarks got him in hot water with host Louise Minchin, who quickly pointed out when inflation is taken into account the offer amounts to a real term pay cut.

She asked an uncomfortable looking Mr Eustice whether he accepted that, to which he replied: "If it ends up being the way that things are calculated, if it's lower than inflation then yes.

"People would say that in real terms it's not an increase, but it is an increase in cash terms and that is, as I say, one of the few areas of the public sector that have seen such an increase."

Pressed on if he thought a pay cut for nurses was "acceptable", the top minister replied that it was "a modest increase" that had to be "put in the context" of the "huge increase in spending we've put into the NHS".

A bemused Ms Minchin shot back: "You just said it's a modest increase and then just previously said it's not an increase, which is it?"

To which Mr Eustice responded: "It's a modest increase in cash terms".

The environment secretary said the 1% offer will be "looked at again" if an ongoing independent review into nurses' pay recommends a bigger rise.

Last night, as she won the award for British female solo artist, Dua Lipa said about Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu: "She has spent her stellar nursing career fighting racial injustice.

"She has also spent so much time and is a strong, strong advocate for protecting frontline workers.

"She has also said that there’s a massive disparity between gratitude and respect for frontline workers because it’s very good to clap for them but we need to pay them.

"And so I think what we should do is we should all give a massive massive round of applause and give Boris a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our frontline."

Dua Lipa was the big winner at the female-dominated Brit Awards, which marked the return of live music to the O2 Arena after more than a year.

She used her second acceptance speech to demand a posthumous bravery award for 20-year-old Folajimi Olubunmi-Adewole, who recently died after jumping into the River Thames to save a woman.

The Brit Awards featured an audience of 4,000 people and took place as part of the Government's live events pilot scheme.

Some 2,500 tickets were gifted to key workers from the Greater London area, with many wearing blue.

Who is Prof Dame Elizabeth Anionwu?

Born in Birmingham in 1947, Anionwu began her career as a nurse at the age of 16.
She founded the UK’s first Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia Screening and Counselling Centre in 1979.
In 1998 Anionwu also founded the Mary Seacole Centre, named after the British-Jamaican nurse who established the British Hotel during the Crimean war, to challenge the “predominately white, Eurocentric focus of nursing recruitment, education and research.”
Prof Dame Elizabeth Anionwu has also championed a significant pay rise for NHS workers following the pandemic – as Dua Lipa mentioned in her BRITs acceptance speech.

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