Around five million public sector workers in the UK should see their pay increase by scraping a 1% cap on their wages, Michael Gove suggested on Sunday 2 July.

The senior Conservative MP, who was promoted to environment secretary by Theresa May as part of the prime minister's post-election reshuffle, said that the government should take their lead from the independent and "authoritative" bodies which review salary levels in the NHS and other parts of the public sector.

"I think that we should listen to the pay review bodies who govern each individual area of public sector pay," he told BBC One's Andrew Marr show.

Marr challenged Gove over his comments, pointing out that the government has enforced the pay cap since 2012.

"I was education secretary and I know that the school teachers pay review body is not the poodle you depict it as," Gove replied. He added: "They also take account other questions as well, including the number of people entering the profession, whether we need to have an increase in pay in order to ensure that we get the very best people in the profession."

The comments come as May's government attempt to react to election result, which saw the Conservative lose their majority in the House of Commons. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, which called for the public sector pay cap to be axed, won 30 extra seats on 8 June.

A Number 10 spokesperson had told reporters that voters were "weary" of the measure, despite the policy being in the Conservative election manifesto.

"In the long run, public sector pay will need to rise in line with private sector pay for the public sector to attract the skilled individuals needed to administer and deliver public services," the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in May.

"Under current government plans, and given current Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the difference between public and private wages would fall to a level not seen in (at least) the last 20 years."

The think-tank added: "There are trade-offs in delivering public services. Increasing public sector pay involve large increases in costs for government departments. However, if public sector pay continues to fall compared with pay in the private sector, the public sector will struggle to recruit and retain the workers it needs to deliver public services, and the quality of those services will therefore be at risk."

Elsewhere, Gove was forced to defend the government's decision to give £1bn ($1.3bn) to Northern Ireland as part of its "confidence and supply" deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

"It's also the case that the money that is being spent in Northern Ireland is being spent in a way which crosses all of the sectarian divides of the past," he told Marr.

"It's money that has been welcomed, not by people just in Northern Ireland, but across the UK in making sure that our Kingdom is stronger and that our union is protected."

The latest opinion poll from Survation, of more than 1,000 people between 28 and 30 June, gave the Conservatives a one point lead over Labour (41% versus 40%), with the Liberal Democrats on 7% and Ukip on 2%.