Starmer “voted against the document in question”.

Boris Johnson, Prime Minister’s Questions

March 10, 2021

Facts

Johnson made this comment during an exchange in Prime Minister’s Questions over pay for NHS workers. Sir Keir said: “Two years ago he [Johnson] 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 been budgeted for and now it’s being taken away.” 

The document Starmer waved around from the despatch box concerned the 2019 long term budgetary plan for the NHS, which committed to a minimum pay rise of 2.1% in 2021-22. The Johnson government was proposing to reduce this to 1%.

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

There was no Commons vote on the measure. Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Health Secretary,  noted this in a letter to Boris Johnson. Allegra Stratton, the No 10 press secretary, declined 12 times to accept that Johnson had been wrong, and indicated that the Prime Minister did not feel the need to correct the record.

Stratton said that Labour had raised a point of order in the Commons after PMQs to seek a correction, and that this was acknowledged by the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, which she said was sufficient to close the matter. 

She said: “The Speaker addressed it in the House immediately after the shadow health secretary and the Speaker said it was a point of clarification, and he regarded it as having been dealt with.”

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. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” 

Verdict

Boris Johnson’s claim was false. It remains on the Hansard record in defiance of the Ministerial Code. It is noteworthy that Speaker Hoyle was content with what Allegra Stratton called a “point of clarification” and did not insist on a correction on the Hansard record, as demanded by the Ministerial Code

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