Care homes row erupts as Johnson hits back at Starmer's call for him to correct coronavirus advice record in Commons

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accused Sir Keir Starmer of “inaccurately and selectively” quoting from official guidelines after the Labour leader called for him to return to the Commons to correct the record about the coronavirus advice issued to care homes.

Sir Keir wrote to Mr Johnson after the pair clashed in the Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions over the guidance issued to care homes.

In his reply to Sir Keir’s letter, Mr Johnson said the Labour leader had "selectively and misleadingly” quoted from official guidance in place until March 12 which said it remained “very unlikely” that people in care homes would become infected.

Sir Keir referenced the guidance during PMQs in the Commons on Wednesday, but Mr Johnson said it “wasn’t true that the advice said that”.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand breaks down the day's developments

In his follow-up letter, the Prime Minister said: “I am disappointed that in the House today you chose to quote Public Health England advice selectively and misleadingly, and I stand by my comments.”

Care home deaths hit 26,000 in April, Sir Keir said during Wednesday's PMQs - "three times" the average for normal times.

He quoted the government’s own official advice from early March, which said: “It remains very unlikely that people receiving care in a care home will become infected.”

Mr Johnson said "it wasn’t true the advice said that", however Public Health England guidance suggested differently, as demonstrated below by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand.

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.”

Earlier, the Labour leader had accused the government of being "too slow" to protect home residents and suggested the government had been naive in care home policy early on in the crisis.

Responding to criticism from Sir Keir at PMQs, the prime minister pledged an extra £600 million to slow coronavirus infections in care homes.

The cash will be handed to councils and ring-fenced for care homes, Paul Brand says, and homes will be able to spend it on infection control.

He admitted there “is much more to do but we are making progress” on reducing the pandemic in care homes, but claimed an "action plan" was causing a "substantial reduction" in the number of deaths.

Sir Keir suggested coronavirus had been seeded into care homes by hospitals, early on in the crisis.

The Labour leader, quoting a cardiologist, said: "We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that patients were infected, no testing available and no PPE to prevent transmission.

"We actively seeded this into the very population that was most vulnerable.

“Does the prime minister accept that the cardiologist is right about this?”

Mr Johnson denied this was the case and hit back, claiming the number of discharges from hospitals into care homes went down in March and April.

“And we had a system of testing people going into care homes and that testing is now being ramped up," he said.

Sir Keir also suggested the government had been naive when it came to care homes.

The Labour leader has also criticised the prime minister's "roadmap" for exiting lockdown as lacking clarity, and he attacked the plan in the Commons on Tuesday.

On Sunday evening Mr Johnson gave a speech setting out a plan to lifting lockdown, but Sir Keir told MPs “clarity and reassurance” were in "pretty short supply".

And in a speech directly responding to Mr Johnson's. Sir Keir said: "The prime minister said he was setting out a road map, but if we are to complete the journey safely a road map needs clear directions."