AT PRIME Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons yesterday PM Sunak sought to divert questions away from the developing Tory PPE procurement scandal by challenging Labour leader Starmer over whether he will back new anti-union laws the Tories are preparing to be used against striking public sector workers in the days ahead.
Starmer asked Sunak: ‘How did his colleague, Baroness Mone, end up with nearly £30 million of taxpayers money in her bank account?’
Sunak replied: ‘It’s absolutely right that she is no longer attending the House of Lords and therefore no longer has the Conservative whip. But there’s one thing about the honourable gentleman, he’s a lawyer and he should know that there is a process in place. It’s vital that that process concludes and I hope that it concludes properly.
‘But I’ll say one thing. I’ll tell him what is weak. Why does the Labour Party refuse to stand up for workers and businesses like pubs and restaurants who will lose business as a result of the train strike. Labour should stand up for working people. If he’s strong that’s what he should do.’
Starmer replied: ‘It may not seem like it but he’s supposed to be the prime minister. This morning his Transport Secretary said that his flagship legislation on strikes is clearly not going to help with the industrial action that we are facing. He should stop grandstanding, stop sitting on his hands, get round the table and resolve these issues.
‘But everyone can see what’s happening here. A Tory politician got their hands on hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ money and then provided duff PPE and then he says he’s shocked. He was the chancellor, he signed the cheques. How much is he going to get back?’
Ignoring the question, Sunak replied: ‘It’s right that he brought up legislation with regard to strikes and I’m very happy to address it actually.
‘Hard working families in this country right now are facing challenges. The government has been reasonable. It has accepted the recommendations of the independent pay body, giving pay rises in many cases higher than the private sector. But if the union leaders continue to be unreasonable then it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and the livelihoods of the British public.
‘And that is why, since I became prime minister I have been working for new tough laws to protect people from this disruption. That’s the legislation he’s asking about. Will he now confirm that he’ll stand up for working people and that he and his party will back that legislation?’
In reply Starmer did not answer as to whether he would back the coming new Tory anti-strike laws, but said: ‘They all voted for tax rises for working people while one of their unelected peers pocketed millions for dodgy PPE.’