Boris Johnson has refused to apologise after falsely claiming Labour voted against a pay rise for nurses.
The prime minister, who is under fire for his offer to give hard-pressed NHS staff a 1% pay rise, had claimed that Keir Starmer’s party had opposed earlier government plans to give health workers a 2.1% hike.
The move, part of the NHS funding bill, was never put to a vote but Johnson’s aides have rejected calls for the PM to say sorry or even correct his mistake.
During prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Johnson told MPs: “The last time we put it to a vote, he (Starmer) voted against it.”
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth raised a point of order with Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle after the session.
He said: “The prime minister twice from that despatch box said that the Labour opposition voted against the NHS Funding Bill and the 2.1% increase for NHS staff – this is not the case.
“Indeed, in the debate, as Hansard will show, I was explicit that we would not be dividing the House.”
Hoyle ruled that it was “certainly a point of clarification” but by that point Johnson had left the chamber.
Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton, who later faced questions from journalists, refused to offer any apology from the PM.
She said: “The speaker addressed it in the House immediately after the shadow health secretary and the speaker regarded it as a point of clarification, and he regarded it as having been dealt with.”
Pressed more than 10 times on whether Johnson would accept he was wrong about claiming there was a vote, Stratton repeated the line and said simply said it was “appropriate” for the speaker to clarify the point.
She insisted that Johnson was “concerned about the truth of these matters”, she added “it would be difficult if the speaker had not addressed it”.
Asked about the ministerial code, which says government ministers should correct any error “at the earliest opportunity”, Stratton insisted that “the system worked”, suggesting the speaker corrected the mistake.
During PMQs, Johnson hinted nurses may be in line for a bigger rise than the 1% proposed by the government.
Labour has called for a larger rise for all NHS staff and has demanded the government put plans to a vote.
Starmer’s party has since written to the prime minister urging him to correct the record.
Ashworth said: “The House did not take a vote on the second or third readings of the Bill and Labour did not vote against the Bill – despite Boris Johnson falsely claiming otherwise during prime minister’s questions.
“The prime minister’s press secretary, Allegra Stratton, also refused on multiple occasions to confirm whether Boris Johnson accepted that he was wrong to say that Labour voted against an NHS pay rise.”