London LIVE Politics Latest: Rishi Sunak meets Keir Starmer in the first PMQs of 2023
Rime Minister Rishi Sunak has been accused by Keir Starmer of “prolonging misery” over strikes in PMQs.
Sir Keir also claimed that the government had “gone from clapping nurses to firing nurses” through its new minimum strike legislation.
The Prime Minister clashed with Sir Keir Starmer over the first Prime Minister’s Questions of the New Year amid crippling public sector strikes.
Sir Keir said: “If the Prime Minister had negotiated with the nurses before Christmas – they would not be on strike. So why does he choose to prolong the misery instead of ending these strikes?”
Responding to the new strike law, which could allow bosses of key public services to sack staff who refuse to work, he said: “When I smacked nurses, I meant it. His response to the biggest crisis in NHS history is a threat to fire our nurses.”
Mr Sunak said he had always been “clear” that he wanted to engage in “constructive dialogue” with unions. Defending minimum safety legislation outlined yesterday, he said it was a “simple proposal” that would balance the need for unions to strike with the supply of life-saving care to those who need it.
It comes as up to 25,000 ambulance workers across England and Wales went on strike on Wednesday amid a dispute with the Government over pay.
Paramedics, callers, drivers and technicians from the Unison and GMB unions are taking part in staggered strikes over a 24-hour period.
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PM ‘registered with NHS GP’
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he is registered with an NHS GP but has used “independent healthcare” in the past as PMQs are being conducted for the first time this year.
No NHS dentist in Doncaster waits months for an appointment, that’s how long they had to wait for the last NHS dentist appointment
Asked how long the Prime Minister had to wait for his last NHS dentist appointment, Mr Sunak replied that there are more NHS dentists across the UK with more resources to get treatment.
New Strikes Bill ‘shouldn’t be controversial’
The Prime Minister was asked by Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer why Tory-led patients are ‘always waiting longer’.
Rishi Sunak said the minimum security legislation proposed by the government in response to the recent strikes is a “simple proposal” and “it is important to balance strikes with people’s access to life-saving treatments”.
Mr Sunak said the bill “should not be controversial” and pointed to similar laws in France and Spain.
Sunak claims to be managing NHS wait times
When questioned by Sir Keir Starmer about the NHS’s long waiting times, Rishi Sunak said he abolished the two-year waiting times last year and the Government is on track to extend those 52-week waiting times by next spring “Record funding” and eliminate more surgical centers.
PM surveyed cancer patient support
Sir Keir Starmer asked when cancer patients would have the reassurance of “rapid care they had at birth”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed Labor had “absolutely no understanding of the situation”.
He said there were “record levels” in cancer treatment.
He said, “What’s frightening is … people not knowing if they’re going to call 999 when they’re getting the treatment they need.”
PM asked about “radicalization of young men”
Teachers must develop their own resources for boys “brainwashed” by Andrew Tate’s misogyny, the Prime Minister has been told.
He was asked if he would support teachers in taking a tough stance against “the radicalization of young men”.
Rishi Sunak said £2billion has already been invested in schools and he cited the Online Safety Bill which will improve child protection.
PM: Labor ‘always runs out of other people’s money’
MP Fiona Bruce asked Rishi Sunak if he would not commit to any unfunded spending commitments.
The prime minister said the government must protect public services, saying “we need to be disciplined on unfunded spending”.
He criticized Labour’s spending plan, saying: “They always run out of other people’s money.”
The government has moved from ‘clapping to nurse firings’
Sir Keir Starmer claimed the government had “gone from clapping nurses to firing nurses”.
The Labor leader quoted a government report as saying long NHS waits were the result of “10 years of managed decline”.
He added: “As a result, 7.2 million people are now waiting for treatment. He says he wants to be held accountable for it.
Rishi Sunak replied: “We have a very clear plan to bring down waiting lists and the NHS is supporting it.
“I’m telling you what the NHS doesn’t need, what it doesn’t need is Labor’s only idea, which is another totally disruptive, top-down, unfunded reorganization, buying up every single GP contract.”
Labour: ‘Why does PM choose to prolong misery rather than end strikes?’
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said if the Prime Minister had negotiated with nurses and ambulances they would not go on strike.
He asked the Prime Minister: “Then why does he choose to prolong the misery instead of ending these strikes?”
Rishi Sunak said: “We have always made it clear that we want to have a constructive dialogue with the unions. That is why we have fully accepted the independent recommendations of the remuneration review bodies when it comes to remuneration.
“[Starmer] talks about wanting to end the strikes. The question for him then is simple: why doesn’t he support our minimum security legislation?”
“We all know why … it’s because he’s on the side of his union payers, not the patients.”
PM ‘can’t tell us how much he will reduce waitlists’
Sir Keir Starmer said the Prime Minister “cannot tell us by how much he will reduce waiting lists by or when”.
“Last month, 1.4 million people waited more than four weeks for a doctor’s appointment. When Labor left the government you were guaranteed an appointment in two days. When does the Prime Minister expect to come back to this?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “In terms of waiting lists, we have already eliminated two-year waiting lists – done last year. We are on track this spring to eliminate those waiting 18 months, with a clear plan to go even further to eliminate those waiting 52 weeks by next spring.”
Starmer is accused of having “absolutely no understanding” for the care of cancer patients
Sir Keir Starmer asked Rishi Sunak when cancer patients “will regain the reassurance of prompt care they received in childbirth”.
He said: “This isn’t just about routine care, there couldn’t be anything more terrifying to be told you might have cancer. That is why the last Labor government introduced a guarantee that you will be examined by a specialist within two weeks.
“Today, 50,000 people are waiting longer than that…so when will cancer patients get the reassurance of the quick care they got in childbirth?”
Mr Sunak accused Mr Starmer of having “absolutely no understanding of the situation”.
The Prime Minister said: “What happened to cancer referrals during Covid? They fell by almost two-thirds. That was because of a pandemic they went under.”