Blair stands by firefighter pay decision

Tony
Blair said "no government on earth" could follow the demands of the
Fire Brigades Union.

The
Prime Minister said government had been "as reasonable and as generous as
possible" while negotiating the matter, and told the Commons claims they
engineered a showdown were offensive and wrong.

Blair
said: "They have been offered 11 per cent over two years. That is more
than nurses, it is more than teachers, it is more than police officers – it is
much more. All that is asked in return is modernisation of plainly outdated
practices

"We,
all of us in this House, I hope, pay tribute to the hard and sometimes
dangerous work that firefighters do. But no government with inflation at around
2 per cent could yield to a wage claim of 40 per cent with the insistence that
any claim is unlinked to any change in working practices at all.

"It
is not just this government that could not contemplate such a thing. There is
no government on earth that could yield to such a claim.

"If
we did so, if we said yes to 40 per cent for firefighters, how could we or any
government say no to a 40 per cent claim for teachers, or nurses or police
officers? And if we said yes to all, the consequence is so clear that it hardly
bears spelling out.

"After
all the hard work to get low inflation, low unemployment, low mortgage rates –
the lowest in each case for decades – after all that hard work to stabilise the
economy, we would simply wreck it and take this country back to days that I
believe we all hope have gone forever," he said.

By Quentin Reade

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