Boris Johnson has refused to apologise for falsely accusing Labour of having voted against a pay rise for NHS staff.
Johnson claimed during Prime Minister’s Questions, where he came under fire for a 1% pay rise for nurses, that Labour had opposed earlier government plans to give health workers a 2.1% hike.
Johnson told MPs the last time the issue was “put to a vote” that Sir Keir Starmer had “voted against it”.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth raised a point of order with Commons speaker Sir Linsday Hoyle after the session.
He 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.”
Sir Lindsay issued a ruling in Labour’s favour but that time Johnson had already left the chamber.
Johnson’s press secretary Allegra Stratton, who later faced questions from journalists, refused to offer any apology from the prime minister.
She said: “The speaker addressed it in the House immediately after the shadow health secretary and the speaker regarded it as a point of clarification, and he regarded it as having been dealt with.”
Pressed more than 10 times on whether Johnson would accept he was wrong about claiming there was a vote, Stratton repeated the line and said simply said it was “appropriate” for the speaker to clarify the point.
Asked about the ministerial code, which stipulates ministers should correct any error “at the earliest opportunity”, Stratton insisted that “the system worked”, suggesting the speaker corrected the mistake.
Labour has called for a larger rise for all NHS staff and has demanded the government put plans to a vote.