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Fri, 23 October 2020

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Keir Starmer demands retraction from Boris Johnson after he denies government coronavirus care home guidance

Keir Starmer demands retraction from Boris Johnson after he denies government coronavirus care home guidance

Boris Johnson announced an extra £600m will be given to help care homes deal with Covid-19 (PA)

3 min read

Keir Starmer has urged Boris Johnson to “correct the record” after the Prime Minister claimed the Government never advised care homes that residents were unlikely to get coronavirus.

Appearing in the Commons for their second PMQs clash, the Labour leader quoted the Government’s official advice from February to care homes from the despatch box.

The document, which remained in force until March 13, said “it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected”.

But Mr Johnson claimed “it wasn’t true that the advice said that”, adding: “And actually we brought the lockdown in care homes ahead of the general lockdown. 

“And what we’ve seen is a concerted action plan to tackle what has unquestionably been an appalling epidemic in care homes.

"And a huge exercise in testing is going on, a further £600million pounds I can announce today, for infection control in care homes.”

Sir Keir hit back, saying: “I’m surprised the Prime Minister questions the advice of his own government until the 12th of March?”

The Labour leader has now written to the Prime Minister to flag the exchange, saying it is “more important than ever that Government ministers are accurate in the information they give”.

And in the letter, which copies in Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Sir Keir said: “Given this, I expect you to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record and to recognise that this was official Government guidance regarding care homes.”

But a Conservative spokesperson accused Sir Keir of “inaccurately and selectively” quoting from the document.

They said the Labour leader used the word “remains” about it being very unlikely people in care homes will become infected, but the actual guidance uses the word “therefore”.

“So in his letter the leader of the opposition actually concedes that he hasn’t quoted accurately from the document,” the spokesperson added.

In response a spokesman for Sir Keir said: “The British people can read the guidance for themselves. It was official government guidance until 12 March. We stand by the letter.”

Elswhere at Prime Minister's Questions Mr Johnson announced the care home sector would get an extra £600million to deal with infections during the pair's PMQs clash.

But he struggled to answer the Labour leader’s questions about 10,000 extra unexplained deaths in residential facilities.

He added: “I want to probe the figures the Prime Minister has given us a little bit further.

“The ONS records the average number of deaths in care homes each month. For the last five years, the average for April has been just over 8,000. 

“This year, the number of deaths in care homes in April was a staggering 26,000. That’s three times the average, 18,000 additional deaths this April. 

“Using the Government’s figures, only 8,000 are recorded as Covid-19 deaths, that leaves 10,000 additional and unexplained care home deaths this April. 

“Now I know the Government must have looked into this, so can the Prime Minister give us the Government’s views on these unexplained deaths?”

Mr Johnson replied that the Government has also produced data which shows that “since the care homes action plan began we are seeing an appreciable and substantial reduction not just in the number of outbreaks, but also in the number of deaths”.

But the Labour leader said: “The Prime Minister says that solving the problem in care homes is crucial, but that can only happen if the numbers are understood. 

“And, therefore, I was disappointed that the Prime Minister doesn’t have an answer to the pretty obvious question as to what are those 10,000 unexplained deaths."

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