The Labour deputy leader accused the Prime Minister of prioritising grouse shooting in the Government’s latest COVID meeting over increasing coronavirus testing capacities in the UK. But Boris Johnson, who pointed out the UK is ahead of any other European country on testing capacities, was prompt to shut down the Labour MP’s claim with a fiery response.
He said: “While the Labour opposition has been consistently carping from the sidelines throughout this crisis and raising issues that are tangential, if not scare stories about what is going on, we are getting on with delivering for the British public.
“We’re not only ramping up, and Mr Speaker as she hasn’t contested any of my statistics today about the extent to which this country is now testing more than any other European country; she hasn’t disputed the massive acceleration in our programme, we are getting on with delivering on the priorities of the British people.
“Getting us through this COVID crisis, delivering on making our country safer, delivering measures on the early release of dangerous violent sexual offenders which I hope she will support, strengthening our union which in principle the frontbench opposite should support.
“Building more affordable homes in this country which she should support.
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“Recruiting more doctors, more nurses and building more hospitals.
“Mr Speaker, I don’t think anybody is in any doubt that this Government is facing the most difficult dilemmas that any modern government has ever had to face.
“But every day we are helping to solve them thanks to the massive commons sense of the British people.
“We are getting on delivering our programme, getting on with delivering our fight against coronavirus.
“And it’s with the common sense of the British people that we will succeed.”
Angela Rayner opened PMQs by reading a message from “a man called Keir” – as she deputised for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Ms Rayner told the Commons: “Keir wasn’t able to go to work today and his children couldn’t go to school because his family had to wait for their coronavirus test results despite the Prime Minister’s promise of results within 24 hours.
“Keir was able to do the right thing and self-isolate and work from home, but other people aren’t in this position – many of them are the very people getting us through this crisis.”
Ms Rayner said Boris Johnson once earned £2,300 an hour, asking: “So can the Prime Minister tell us what is the average hourly rate for a care worker in this country?”
The Prime Minister said he understood a negative test had been returned for Sir Keir’s child, adding: “I don’t know why he is not here.”
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Mr Johnson defended the speed of testing but did not offer an answer on the average hourly rate, to which Ms Rayner said: “The whole country would have seen that the Prime Minister doesn’t know how much a care worker earns because that was my question – the shameful fact is the average wage in social care is barely more than £8 an hour.”
Rayner called on the Prime Minister to “get some skates on” in delivering testing and PPE to care homes ahead of winter.
She said: “I must say to the Prime Minister get some skates on it. Those care workers are still not getting the PPE they need, they’re still not getting the testing they need.
“So I urge the Prime Minister to get on top of this problem now before the winter crisis hits.
“The Prime Minister has put his faith in Operation Moonshot, but meanwhile on planet Earth there are no NHS tests available for several high-infection areas.”
She asked: “Can the Prime Minister confirm yes or no, do all care homes in this country have weekly tests?”
Boris Johnson replied: “Yes, to the best of my knowledge care homes in this country… should get weekly tests for all staff members and tests every 28 days for those who are in the care homes, the residents in the care homes.”