Wes Streeting has lambasted the latest Cabinet reshuffle, describing it as yet another “Conservative clown show”.
He said the Government had exhausted all the viable names “at the bottom of the barrel”, adding: “So they are starting all over again.”
His comments come as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak embarked on a reshuffle of his top team on Monday, with former PM David Cameron making a surprise return to frontline politics as Foreign Secretary.
The announcement was made after James Cleverly replaced Suella Braverman as Home Secretary.
Speaking during the fourth day of debate in the Commons on the King’s Speech, shadow health secretary Mr Streeting questioned the Conservative Party’s inability to find suitable candidates for critical roles among its MPs.
He also said that when it comes to the National Health Service, now-Lord Cameron “has quite a lot to answer for”, given he was “the architect of austerity”.
Lord Cameron was given a peerage in order to be able to take the Government post, given he is not an MP.
Mr Streeting said: “The merry-go-round of the Conservative clown show continues and after 13 years they have run out of names at the bottom of the barrel so they’re starting all over again.
“So can I offer my sympathies to the members opposite who did not get the call from Number 10 today.
“What kind of message does it send their constituents that their own party leader cannot find a suitable candidate for foreign secretary among the 350 Conservative MPs who sit in this House?
“And in fact the arsonist has today returned to the fire, because when it comes to the National Health Service, Lord Cameron has quite a lot to answer for.”
The debate, which focused on “building an NHS fit for the future”, also saw health minister Helen Whately tell MPs the Government remained committed to achieving “genuine parity” between mental and physical health care, despite the lack of a Mental Health Bill in the King’s Speech.
Ms Whately said: “I recognise there is disappointment the (Mental Health Bill) was not included in the King’s Speech, but I can assure honourable members this Government is committed to achieving genuine parity between mental and physical health, to improving the care of those detained under the Mental Health Act, and to bringing forward the Bill when parliamentary time allows.”
Intervening, Labour MP Fleur Anderson (Putney) said she was “very disappointed” the Bill was not in the speech, and Labour backbenchers called out “Where is it?”.
Ms Whately said: “We’re not waiting for legislation in order to bring forward reforms to mental health.”
Mr Streeting later accused the Government of “breath-taking complacency” on mental health.
He said: “The Bill has gone through committee, it has cross-party support, it is ready to go, so where is it?
“The treatment of people with learning difficulties and autism under the current Act shames our society, the disproportionate impact on black people, who are four times more likely to be sectioned than white people, is appalling, and prisons and police cells are no place for people with mental ill health, this is surely not controversial in 2023.”
Labour MP Dr Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting), who served as shadow mental health minister from 2020 to 2023, also said: “Back in 2017, there was hope of real change when the Government pledged to reform the Act. Six years later, and after much posturing from Government ministers, this promise has sadly been broken.”
She added: “This Government does not care if children languish on waiting lists. This Government does not care if parents have to give up their jobs to sit at home on suicide watch because their children cannot get the help they need. This Government doesn’t care about people in all of our communities.”