Cabinet minister George Eustice stressed there is a “difficult public finance environment” after Dua Lipa used her Brit Awards acceptance speech to call for an NHS pay rise.
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 won both best female solo artist and the coveted best album award, using her first speech to call for a pay rise for NHS workers and her second 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.
Environment Secretary Eustice told BBC Breakfast: “There’s been a pay rise, it was announced. 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.
“We know that it is a difficult public finance environment as well, so we can’t always go as far as you’d like but it’s also the case that there’s also a pay review that’s going on into the NHS.”
Downing Street said NHS staff had gone “above and beyond” in the past year.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are in a difficult economic situation due to the pandemic and have implemented a public sector-wide pay freeze for all but the lowest-paid workers.
“We recognise NHS staff have gone above and beyond over the past year so we have exempted them, there’s now work for the independent pay review body to do, so I don’t want to pre-empt that, but we will carefully consider their recommendations.”
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, many of whom wore blue.
During her acceptance speech as she picked up the female solo artist gong, Lipa said: “It’s very good to clap for them, but we need to pay them.
“I think what we should do is we should all give a massive, massive round of applause and give Boris (Johnson) a message that we all support a fair pay rise for our front line.”
Little Mix, Arlo Parks, US rockers Haim and Billie Eilish were also among the acts who took home gongs at the London venue on Tuesday night.
The trio of Little Mix – Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards- made history as the first female group to win the best British group prize.
Taylor Swift, who appeared in person, was presented with the global icon award, the first woman to be awarded the prize, and delivered a speech to the budding artists in the room.
Rapper Headie One delivered the biggest performance of the night with a rendition of his hit Ain’t It Different alongside fellow Brit nominee AJ Tracey, including a new verse taking aim at the Government over free school meals and challenging the negative public perception of drill music.
Host Jack Whitehall kicked off the event with a sketch featuring Line Of Duty stars Vicky McClure and Martin Compston, as well as social media sensation Jackie Weaver, who went viral with her contributions to a parish council meeting.
Coldplay also delivered a performance of their new single Higher Power from a pontoon on the River Thames, surrounded by hologram dancers and against a backdrop of purple and orange fireworks.
American singer Eilish won the international female solo artist gong, while Haim beat acts including Run The Jewels and BTS to win the international group award.
Former One Direction star Harry Styles won the British single award for his song Watermelon Sugar, with J Hus named best male solo artist.
The night also featured performances from Rag’n’Bone Man and P!nk with the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Choir, viral sea shanty sensation Nathan Evans and rising star award winner Griff.
Audience members attending the indoor ceremony were not socially distanced or required to wear face coverings once seated.
However, they needed proof of a negative lateral flow test result to enter the venue and will be required to provide details to NHS Test and Trace and follow Government guidance while travelling.