Sunday shows: Ashworth says it is time to bring Lords into the 21st century – LabourList

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

On reports that Labour is planning to abolish the House of Lords, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said “the time is right to democratise the House of Lords” and argued that the second chamber needs to be brought “into the 21st century” and should therefore be elected.

  • On the state of the NHS: “It’s in a quite desperate state… The problem with the NHS is that there’s an increased demand on the NHS and there simply isn’t the capacity to meet that demand. We are short of the doctors, the nurses, the paramedics, the clinical staff that we need.”
  • Asked whether Labour would support a ‘Swiss-style’ deal with the EU: “No… What we need to do is we need to fix the problems in the deal. We need to look at veterinary agreements… We need to look at our security arrangements. We do need to look at ways in which we can get more frictionless trade.”
  • On whether Labour would seek access to the single market: “No, we’re not proposing returning to the single market or the customs union or anything like that. But we do want to negotiate a bespoke deal for the UK.”
  • Asked whether nurses should get the pay rise that they are demanding: “Nurses and other pubic sector workers deserve a fair pay settlement. But these things need to be negotiated through the proper way. Steve Barclay… it’s now incumbent upon him to get all the trade union representatives, the representatives of nurses, doctors, paramedics and so on, round a table to avoid industrial action this winter.”
  • Pressed on how much nurses’ pay should rise: “The buck stops with the Health Secretary. If he wants to avoid industrial action this winter, he has to get those trade unions in his office on Monday morning to get an agreement.”
  • On House of Lords reform: “We need to bring it into the 21st century.”
  • He added: “When trust in politics is so low because of the actions of Boris Johnson – and he’s actually trying to make appointments to the House of Lords, which people feel or have felt are inappropriate – I think the time is right to democratise the House of Lords.”
  • Asked whether criticism of Qatar should stop as the World Cup begins: “We should continue talking about the issues because Qatar’s human rights record… it’s quite right that the world focuses on that as well and puts pressure on the Qatari government.”

On reports that the government is considering a ‘Swiss-style’ deal with the EU, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said he did not recognise the reports, adding: “I don’t support that. I want to maximise the opportunities that Brexit offers”.

Asked whether he accepts that Brexit has had a “significant adverse impact” on trade, he said ” I think there’s pros and cons” but acknowledged that there are “areas where there have been difficulties in term of greater frictions”.

On the NHS, Barclay said he thinks there is “scope” to look at the costs of administration in the health service, adding that he wants to give “more autonomy, more freedom” to trust leaders so they spend less time “managing upwards”. He said he was looking at creating a more “streamlined centre” with more decision-making devolved to those “on the ground”.

On nurses’ pay, Barclay said there is a process to look at pay “in the round” – the independent pay review body – and stressed that the situation facing nurses is “not just about pay”, which is why he is “very keen” to engage with the trade unions.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg

Ashworth refused to specify how much funding Labour would provide the NHS, saying that all spending and tax commitments would be set out in the party’s next manifesto. He insisted, however, that “the NHS will always be protected under a Labour government”.

  • Asked whether Labour would have given the NHS the £7bn it asked for in the autumn statement: “We’ve always properly funded the national health service and last time we were in government, we brought waiting lists down to their lowest on record.”
  • Pressed on the question: “We would take measures to grow the economy and if you grow the economy you have more money to invest in public services… We’re not in government today and when we are in government we’ll make a full assessment of the needs of the NHS and fund it properly – but you’ve got to grow your economy.”
  • Asked whether Labour would spend more on the NHS than the Tories have: “The NHS will always be protected under a Labour government… In our manifesto, we will outline our spending commitments.”
  • On Labour accepting the “hole in the public finances of around £50bn”: “No, what we’re accepting is the OBR projections. Now, we have got a very clear fiscal framework. We will balance current spending and it will all be paid for… we will have debt falling as a proportion of GDP.”
  • He added: “We’ve got two years to go… I’m not going to write Labour Budgets for 2026 and 2027 this morning but in our next manifesto every spending commitment we make will be fully costed and you’ll see how we are going to manage the public finances.”
  • On getting people back into work: “I’m going to be better link the job centre with mental health services… Where this has happened in the country… for every £1 that was spent £1.75 was returned. So it makes economic sense.”
  • Asked how many people not working he would try and get into jobs: “A conservative estimate suggests that there’s 700,000 people who would return to work with the right support. Some have suggested it is as high as 1.5 million. Overall, when combined with our unemployment rate of 1.2 million, there’s possibly three million people.”

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