Johnson accused of misrepresenting Labour policies – and his own – at PMQs

Boris Johnson made a number of statements during Prime Minister’s Questions which have been contested.

Geraldine Scott
Wednesday 05 January 2022 18:51
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions (House of Commons/PA)

Boris Johnson has been accused of making a number of misrepresentations during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

Labour said the Prime Minister not only misrepresented the opposition’s position on a number of issues, but also his own.

Here are the contested statements made by Mr Johnson during the session.

Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

– Inflation

Mr Johnson did not take the opportunity to correct his comments on inflation when challenged to do so by Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner.

Ms Rayner, in a point of order, said she was sure that the Prime Minister did not wish to mislead MPs and asked him to correct the record after he had denied saying in an interview in October that fears about inflation were unfounded.

But he did not respond.

Ms Rayner, who was standing in for Sir Keir Starmer after the Labour leader tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, said: “In October the Prime Minister said that fears about inflation were unfounded, but working people across the country are starting the new year facing rising bills and ballooning prices, so how did he get it so wrong?”

Mr Johnson replied: “Of course I said no such thing because inflation is always something that we have to be careful about.”

But Sky News journalist Beth Rigby then tweeted a clip of the interview where Mr Johnson said “people have been worrying about inflation for a very long time, I’m looking at robust economic growth, and by the way those fears have been unfounded”.

Downing Street later declined to correct Mr Johnson’s words.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Obviously we’re acutely aware of the pressures that inflation can cause. The interview you’re referring to related to October, it was not a prediction of what might come next.”

– Labour called for lockdown in response to Omicron

The Prime Minister told the Commons Labour had called for a “road map to lockdown” after the emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “They were calling for tougher measures and for a road map back into lockdown so that was simply what he was talking about.”

But Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “At no point over Christmas or New Year has Labour called for a new lockdown. We backed Plan B measures – without us they wouldn’t have passed – and have urged the Government to do more on sick pay, school ventilation and testing.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

– Labour would rejoin the European Union

Mr Johnson said that Labour’s objective was to rejoin the EU.

But in an interview with The Daily Telegraph in March, Sir Keir said: “We’ve left. We are no longer a member of the EU. We’ve got a deal, we’ve got to make that deal work.

“There’s no case for rejoining the EU and I’ve been very clear about that. The Remain-Leave debate is over.”

A Labour spokesman said: “We saw repeatedly from the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s Questions today misrepresentations of Labour’s position and factual errors about his own position.”

– Warm Home Discount

Following a call from Labour for a cut in VAT on energy bills, Mr Johnson referred Ms Rayner to the Warm Home Discount.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA)

He said that it “supports 2.2 million people to the tune of £140 a week”.

The Warm Home Discount is worth £140 per winter.

– A reduction in poverty

In response to a question from the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Mr Johnson said: “If we look at the statistics, we see that economic inequality is down in this country. Income inequality is down and poverty is down.”

There is no universally accepted recognition of poverty, but the two most commonly used measures are absolute poverty – less than 60% of the median income for 2010/11, adjusted for inflation – and relative poverty – less than 60% of the median income for that financial year.

A report from the House of Commons library from October said: “Overall, levels of relative poverty have been fairly steady over the past few years, but this varies between population groups: the proportion of children and pensioners in relative poverty is higher than it was five years ago.”

The Office for National Statistics, in its latest release on the issue, said income inequality steadily increased to 36.3%.

The organisation said this was “the highest reported measure of income inequality over the 10-year period” up to the end of the 2020 financial year.

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