Labour is urging Boris Johnson to “set the record straight” after the Prime Minister falsely claimed today that the opposition party had voted against a proposed 2.1% pay rise for NHS workers in England.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, Keir Starmer criticised the new, widely-criticised government recommendation of a 1% pay rise for NHS staff by pointing out that they had already been promised a bigger rise last year.
“Two years ago he 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 Labour leader said.
Johnson replied: “He voted against the document in question, to crown the absurdity of his point.” Later, in response to Starmer’s call for a fresh vote on NHS pay, the PM said: “The last time we put it to a vote, he voted against it.”
In fact, the 2.1% proposal was not put to a formal vote in the House of Commons last year; instead, it was ‘nodded through’ by MPs without a ‘division’ being called, as Jonathan Ashworth pointed out in the chamber today.
When asked about the exchange by journalists this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton failed 20 times to say whether Johnson accepted that he was wrong about Labour’s vote.
The Shadow Health Secretary has written to Johnson urging him to correct the record, highlighting that Ashworth specified at the time Labour would “not divide the House, but instead seek to amend the bill”.
Below is the full text of Jonathan Ashworth’s letter to the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
10 March 2021
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you to correct the record on votes on the NHS Funding Act 2020.
At Prime Ministers’ Questions today, with reference to the NHS Long Term Plan planning documents, you responded to the Leader of the Opposition to say:
“Mr Speaker, he voted against the document in question, to crown the absurdity of his point.”
However, at both second and third reading the House did not divide to vote on this Bill. Indeed, at the time of Second Reading I said:
“We will not divide the House tonight, but instead seek to amend the Bill.”
To say that Labour voted against this Bill is therefore incorrect. At all times in the debate, Labour attempted to secure a greater financial settlement for the NHS in order to improve patient care.
I was surprised to hear that this afternoon your Press Secretary, Allegra Stratton, refused around 20 times to confirm whether you accept that you were wrong to say that Labour voted against an NHS pay rise.
I would be grateful if you could correct the record on this.
Jonathan Ashworth MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
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