Boris Johnson reprimanded by Speaker after claims of Keir Starmer 'hypocrisy'

13 January 2021, 13:02 | Updated: 13 January 2021, 13:41

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson was reprimanded by the Speaker of the House of Commons for calling Sir Keir Starmer “hypocritical” in a row over free school meals.

Lindsay Hoyle cut Mr Johnson off as he launched an attack on the Labour leader for claiming “it shouldn't have taken social media to shame the Prime Minister into action".

It comes after images of "woefully inadequate" free school meal parcels, provided by a company contracted by the Department for Education, were posted on Twitter.

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The Speaker told Mr Johnson during PMQs: “I don’t believe anyone’s a hypocrite in this chamber, I think we need to be a little bit careful about what we’re saying to each other.

"There was a not truth earlier, and there was also comparisons to others.

"Please, let's keep the discipline in this chamber and the respect for each other. We're tidying up how this Parliament behaves and I certainly expect the leadership of both parties to ensure that takes place."

The Prime Minister took the advice to withdraw the claim of hypocrisy but highlighted the "absurdity" of Sir Keir attacking the Government on free school meals given policies put in place by the Conservatives on the issue.

Mr Johnson had earlier branded the free school meal offerings shared on social media as "disgraceful".

Asked by Sir Keir if he would be happy for his children to be living on such meals, he told the Commons: "I don't think anybody in this House is happy with the disgraceful images that we've seen of the food parcels that have been offered.

"They're appalling, they're an insult to the families that have received them."

He also told MPs: "The company in question has rightly apologised and agreed to reimburse.

"It's because we want to see our kids properly fed throughout this very difficult pandemic that we've massively increased the value of what we're providing."

But Sir Keir responded: “The Prime Minister says that the parcels are disgraceful but it shouldn't have taken social media to shame the Prime Minister into action."

He added: "I've checked the Government guidance on free school meals, published by the Department for Education.

"I've got it here, it sets out example parcels for one child for five days, the Department for Education, Prime Minister, you want to be held to account - one loaf of bread, two baked potatoes, block of cheese, baked beans, three individual yoghurts, sound familiar? That's the image you just called disgraceful.

"The only difference I can see in this list and what the Prime Minister has described as disgraceful is a tin of sweetcorn, a packet of ham and a bottle of milk.

"So, he blames others but this is on his watch. The truth is families come last under this government, whether it's exams, free school meals or childcare."

Sir Keir urged Mr Johnson to take down the guidance by the close of play on Wednesday.