Keir Starmer accuses Boris Johnson of misleading MPs over covid-19 care home deaths

13 May 2020, 15:53

Sir Keir wrote to the PM on Wednesday asking him to correct the record
Sir Keir wrote to the PM on Wednesday asking him to correct the record. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer clashed in the House of Commons today in a row over coronavirus deaths in care homes.

Sir Keir said the Government's own official advice was "it remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected".

Mr Johnson responded that it "wasn't true that the advice said that."

But in a letter sent to No 10 after their exchange, Sir Keir pointed out official guidance published on February 25 which said it was "very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or the community will become infected".

Hitting back, Downing Street claimed Sir Keir had "inaccurately and selectively" quoted from official guidance in place until March 12 which said it remained "very unlikely" that people in care homes would become infected.

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Sir Keir asked the Prime Minister to return to the Commons to set the record straight, saying: "At this time of national crisis, it is more important than ever that Government ministers are accurate in the information they give.

"Given this, I expect you to come to the House of Commons at the earliest opportunity to correct the record and to recognise that this was official Government guidance regarding care homes.”

A Downing Street source told a Westminster briefing following the exchange that Sir Keir omitted the preceding sentence which said the advice was "intended for the current position in the UK where there is currently no transmission of COVID-19 in the community".

The source said: "I think what's actually happened is that the Leader of the Opposition has inaccurately and selectively quoted from the Public Health England guidance and that is what the PM was referring to."

Sharing Sir Keir’s call for Boris Johnson to correct the record about coronavirus advice issued to care homes, shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: "With so many heartbreaking deaths in care homes it is deeply concerning that the Prime Minister doesn't even appear to understand his own government's guidance.

"He must come to Parliament to clear this up. In a public health crisis public confidence matters."

The exchange came during a Prime Minister’s Questions in which the Labour leader said the Government was “too slow to protect people in care homes” during the crisis.

Sir Keir said we needed to “rapidly reverse” the effect of the virus in care homes after it was revealed the coronavirus death toll there could be more than double that which was previously calculated.

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He also tackled Mr Johnson over the Government’s use of international death statistics, which had previously been included in the daily press briefing slides but were dropped yesterday.