Sir Keir Starmer demanded MPs be allowed to vote on pay increases for NHS workers, as he accused Boris Johnson of “breaking promise after promise”.
The Labour leader warned nurses face a “real-terms cut” and said the Prime Minister was choosing to “shut the door in their face at the first opportunity”, having previously clapped for carers.
But Mr Johnson repeatedly claimed a pay increase would be delivered for NHS workers, defended his Government’s spending record and said he would see what the independent pay review body reports back.
The Government has proposed giving some NHS staff in England a 1% pay rise, despite an expectation from health bosses that it would be 2.1%.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s questions, Sir Keir said: “A 1% rise versus 1.7% inflation rise, that is a real-terms cut, and if the Prime Minister doesn’t understand that, we really are in trouble.
“They can afford to give Dominic Cummings a 40% pay rise, and they can’t afford to reward the NHS properly.
“The mask really is slipping, and we can see what the Conservative Party now stands for: cutting pay for nurses, putting taxes up for families.
“He’s had the opportunity to change course, but he’s refused.
“So if he’s so determined to cut NHS pay, will he at least show some courage and put it to a vote in Parliament?”
Mr Johnson replied: “The last time we put it to a vote, he (Mr Starmer) voted against it.
“We’re increasing pay for nurses, we’re massively increasing our investment in the NHS.
“We’re steering a steady course, whereas he weaves and wobbles from one week to the next.”
Labour later pushed back on the Prime Minister’s claim that they had previously voted against the document outlining the 2.1% pay increase.
Sir Keir had said: “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 being budgeted for and now it’s being taken away.
“He shakes his head – his MPs voted for it. So why, after everything the NHS has done for us, is he now breaking promise after promise?”
Mr Johnson replied: “He voted against the document in question to crown the absurdity of his point.”
Raising a point of order after PMQs, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth accused Mr Johnson of misleading MPs.
As he rose to his feet, Mr Johnson hurriedly exited the chamber.
Mr Ashworth 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.
“So can you, Mr Speaker, use your good office to get the Prime Minister to return to the House and correct the record?
“And do you agree, Mr Speaker, that if the Prime Minister wants to cut nurses’ pay he should have the courage of his convictions to bring a vote back to the House?”
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “It is certainly a point of clarification – that part has been achieved.”
Downing Street indicated that Mr Johnson would not apologise or correct the record, but did not dispute that he was incorrect.
The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton told reporters: “The key thing is that this was dealt with swiftly and the Speaker – who has enormous respect and authority in Parliament – regards it as a point of clarification and it has now been dealt with.”
Asked if Mr Johnson had a problem with facts, Ms Stratton said: “No, he doesn’t. The Speaker addressed this as a point of clarification and it has been dealt with today.”
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”.
Ms Stratton said Mr Johnson “absolutely agrees” with the ministerial code and “in this instance the system worked” because the Speaker had responded to Mr Ashworth.