Johnson accused of lying over Labour’s position on NHS funding

David Hughes, PA Political Editor
·3-min read

Boris Johnson was accused of lying to MPs as Downing Street repeatedly refused to say he would apologise for incorrectly claiming Labour voted against an NHS funding package.

The Prime Minister clashed with Sir Keir Starmer over proposals for a below-inflation pay rise for the NHS, with the Labour leader stating the funding package had included a 2.1% increase rather than the 1% now recommended by ministers.

During the exchanges, Mr Johnson twice claimed that Labour voted against the settlement for the NHS – but the NHS Funding Act was approved without a vote in early 2020.

Sir Keir said: “Two years ago he made a promise to the NHS – here in black and white, his document – it commits to a minimum pay rise of 2.1%. It’s being budgeted for and now it’s being taken away.

“He shakes his head – his MPs voted for it. So why, after everything the NHS has done for us, is he now breaking promise after promise?”

Mr Johnson replied: “He voted against the document in question to crown the absurdity of his point.”

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Following the exchanges, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth used a point of order to accuse Mr Johnson of misleading MPs but as the Labour frontbencher rose to his feet, Mr Johnson hurriedly exited the chamber.

Mr Ashworth asked Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to “get the Prime Minister to return to the House and correct the record”.

Sir Lindsay said it was not a point of order but “it is certainly a point of clarification – that part has been achieved”.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton was repeatedly challenged over Mr Johnson’s comments but indicated he would neither apologise nor correct the record.

In a briefing for Westminster journalists, No 10 was asked around 20 questions on the issue and Mr Johnson’s approach to truthfulness.

Downing Street indicated that Mr Johnson would not apologise or correct the record, but did not dispute that he was incorrect.

Ms Stratton told reporters: “The key thing is that this was dealt with swiftly and the Speaker – who has enormous respect and authority in Parliament – regards it as a point of clarification and it has now been dealt with.”

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The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Asked if Mr Johnson had a problem with facts, Ms Stratton said: “No, he doesn’t. The Speaker addressed this as a point of clarification and it has been dealt with today.”

The ministerial code states that it is of “paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity”.

Ms Stratton said Mr Johnson “absolutely agrees” with the ministerial code and “in this instance the system worked” because the Speaker had responded to Mr Ashworth.

The shadow health secretary used a social media post to say Mr Johnson “lied at PMQs” and Labour did not vote against the 2.1% uplift for NHS pay.

“Boris Johnson is now breaking his promise to NHS staff and cutting their pay in real terms,” Mr Ashworth said.

“He should now have the courage to put his nurses pay cut to a vote.”

Mr Ashworth has written to Mr Johnson calling on him to correct the record in the Commons.