People are willing to go on oath to confirm Boris Johnson said he would rather see “bodies pile high” than implement another lockdown, Parliament was told today.
Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford made the claim during angry exchanges with Mr Johnson.
The Labour leader responded by hinting that he may have some material to back up the claim.
At the start of PMQs, Sir Keir said: “It was reported this week, including in the Daily Mail, the BBC and ITV - backed up by numerous sources - that at the end of October the Prime Minister said he would rather have, and I quote, ‘bodies pile high’ than implement another (the third) lockdown.
“Can the Prime Minister tell the House categorically yes or no, did he make those remarks or remarks to that effect?”
The Prime Minister replied: “No. And (Sir Keir) is a lawyer, I am given to understand, and I think if he is going to repeat allegations like that he should come to this House and substantiate those allegations, and say where he heard them and who exactly is supposed to have said those things.”
He added: “He asked about the October decisions, they were very bitter, very difficult decisions as they would be for any Prime Minister because no-one wants to put this country into a lockdown with all the consequences that means for loss of education, for the damage to people’s life chances, to the huge medical backlog that it entailed.
“But it was thanks to that lockdown, the tough decision that we took, thanks to the heroic efforts of the British people that we have got through to this stage in the pandemic where we find ourselves rolling out our vaccine, where we have done 50 per cent of the population, 25 per cent of the adult population have now had two doses.
“Lockdowns are miserable, lockdowns are appalling things to have to do, but I have to say that I believe that we had absolutely no choice.”
Sir Keir responded: “Well somebody here is not telling the truth.”
In what appeared to be a sign that he may have some evidence to support the claim, he added: “The House will have heard the Prime Minister’s answer and I remind him the ministerial code says and I quote: ‘Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation’.
“I will leave it there for now.”
Mr Blackford went further by claiming people were willing to go on oath on the matter.
“The BBC and ITV have multiple sources confirming that this is what the Prime Minister said,” he said.
“People are willing to go under oath, confirming that the Prime Minister said these exact words.
“Parliamentary rules stop me from saying that the Prime Minister has repeatedly lied to the public over the last week.
“But can I ask a question, are you a liar Prime Minister?”
Mr Johnson responded: “Mr Speaker, I leave it to you to judge whether the Right Honourable Gentleman’s remarks were in order.”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle intervened, branding the SNP leader’s remarks as not being “savoury and not what we would expect”.
The Prime Minister then continued: “What I will say to him (Mr Blackford) is that if he is going to relay that kind of quotation in a place like Parliament to produce the author, the person who claims to have heard it, because I can’t find them.
“He says that they are willing to go on oath, perhaps they are sitting somewhere in this building, I rather doubt it, because I did not say those words.
“What I do believe is that a lockdown is a miserable, miserable thing and I did everything I could to try to protect the British public throughout the pandemic, to protect them from lockdowns but also to protect them from disease.”