Labour Has Rejected Boris Johnson's Claims He Did Not Mislead MPs Over NHS Pay Comments
Boris Johnson made the comments in while responding to Keir Starmer at PMQs (Alamy)
Boris Johnson has come under yet more pressure to clarify comments he made at Prime Minister's Questions amid claims he misled MPs over Labour’s vote record on pay rises for NHS staff.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has written to the Prime Minister asking him to make a statement to MPs after his official spokesperson repeatedly failed to state whether the comments were in error.
At Wednesday's PMQs, Boris Johnson claimed that Labour had voted against the NHS Funding Bill, which passed the Commons unopposed in 2020.
The PM’s official spokesperson has since suggested Johnson had not made an error as he was referring to an entirely different vote.
Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Allegra Stratton said: “The Leader of the House made the point that the Prime Minister was referring to Labour voting against the Queen’s Speech in January of last year.
“That was the case that the Prime Minister was referring to yesterday in the Commons.”
Asked to clarify if the PM felt he had not misled MPs, Stratton added: “The NHS Funding Bill was in the Queen’s Speech, the Labour Party voted against the Queen’s Speech, that is the basis for the point he made.”
In a letter to the Prime Minister on Thursday, Ashworth said: “I note you have so far made no attempt to clarify your remarks personally, and in failing to do so may have inadvertently broken the Ministerial Code.
“I further note that your Press Secretary Allegra Stratton has attempted to clarify your remarks further today by stating they referenced a different vote," Ashworth wrote.
“If this is the case I believe it is in the public interest that you clarify the situation yourself through a statement to Parliament to abide by the code.”
Earlier on Thursday, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle made a statement regarding the situation in which he said MPs “must take responsibility for correcting the record if a mistake has been made”.
“It is not dishonourable to make a mistake; but to seek to avoid admitting one is a different matter,” he added.
Hoyle also appeared to rebuff claims that he had resolved the issue by allowing a Point of Order from Ashworth, in which the shadow health secretary first called on the PM to correct the record.
“The Speaker cannot be dragged into arguments about whether a statement is inaccurate or not. That is often a matter of political debate,” he said.