The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has voted with Labour in favour of raising NHS pay – the first time the party has broken with the Tories since their £1 billion ($1.32bn) deal after the general election.
The DUP, integral to Theresa May’s coalition government, is also expected to vote with Labour and block hikes in student fees later on Wednesday.
The Northern Ireland party’s 10 MPs voted with Jeremy Corbyn’s party for a “fair pay rise” for doctors and nurses who work in the NHS. The government did not contest the motion.
Although the votes are non-binding for the government, meaning May is not obliged to act on them, it will heap pressure on the PM to make a bigger offer to public sector workers later this year.
The party’s decision exposes the first cracks in the controversial £1 billion “cash for votes” arrangement which kept the Prime Minister in Number 10 after her general election debacle.
DUP MP Ian Paisley had signalled earlier in the Commons that his party would support the motion.
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson told the Guardian that the votes would not affect his party’s relationship with the Tories.
“We made it very clear to her Majesty’s government on issues like this we reserve the right to vote on the basis of our own manifesto. This doesn’t threaten the deal at all.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the motion calling for an “end [to] the public sector pay cap in the NHS and [to] give NHS workers a fair pay rise” was “bogus.”
On Tuesday, Downing Street confirmed the one percent limit on public sector pay rises is to be scrapped. Police officers and police will enjoy raises above one percent for the first time since 2010, with May ready to show “flexibility” on pay for other public sector workers in 2018/19.