ishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have clashed over the justice system and crime at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Sir Keir said there was a record backlog in the court system which meant“violent criminals go free”, while the PM hit back branding the Labour leader “Sir Softy. Soft on crime. Soft on criminals.”
Mr Starmer claimed ‘thousands of criminals aren’t in prison” because of “the wrecking ball that the Tories have taken to criminal justice”.
Mr Sunak said: “What’s the record since 2010, crime down by 50% under the Conservative Government. 20,000 more police officers, we’ve given them more powers and we’ve toughened up sentencing all opposed by Sir Softy over there.”
The pair clashed amid a serious setback on the PM’s pledge to halve inflation by the end of the year.
Inflation stayed stuck in double figures of 10.1 per cent in March – down from 10.4 per cent in February – dashing hopes of an early end to the cost of living crisis in a major blow to hard pressed shoppers.
The blow comes as Mr Sunak is being investigated by Parliament’s standards watchdog over a possible failure to declare an interest.
A newly-published list of ministerial interests on Wednesday contained a reference to the childcare agency that Mr Sunak’s wife holds shares in, following a row over the Prime Minister’s declarations.
PMQs was held for the first time since the Easter recess.
Around 100 alleged Chinese police stations around the world, MPs have heard.
Responding to Labour, Home Office minister Chris Philp reiterated “there is a live investigation by the law enforcement community into this matter”, adding: “As soon as the security minister is in a position to provide an update on the results of that investigation, he will do so.”
He added: “It is worth mentioning that Chinese activity in this area is not confined to the United Kingdom. We are aware of approximately 100 alleged stations of the kind we are discussing around the world.
“It’s not unique to the United Kingdom, and as a shadow home secretary said, just earlier this week arrests were made in New York in connection with a similar investigation conducted by the FBI, similar to the investigations that we are currently conducting here.”
Sunak ‘deeply shocked and appalled’ to hear about the cases of sexual assault and abuse in the NHS
The Prime Minister said he was “deeply shocked” and “appalled to hear about the cases of sexual assault and abuse in the NHS”.
His comments came as Labour’s Rosie Duffield (Canterbury) told MPs: “This week the Women’s Rights Network published a report by criminologist Professor Jo Phoenix called ‘When we are at our most vulnerable’ revealing that between January 2019 and October 2022 which includes the pandemic lockdown, of course, there were a staggering 6,539 reported rapes and sexual assaults in UK hospital settings.
“That’s an average of 33 incidents every single week and as eight police forces did not provide any data, the real figures are bound to be significantly higher. What can the Prime Minister and his Government do to ensure that all women, staff and patients are safe in Britain’s hospitals?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “I was deeply shocked like (her) and appalled to hear about the cases of sexual assault and abuse in the NHS, and I pay tribute to her for her longstanding campaign on these issues.
“NHS organisations are responsible for protecting their staff and patients from sexual harassment and conduct. They’ve recently established a domestic abuse and sexual violence programme to build more robust safeguarding processes for protecting patients. We will work very closely with them to ensure that that is implemented and I know she will hold us to account for doing that.”
Ex-Cabinet minister accuses striking doctors of risking loss of life
Conservative former Cabinet minister David Davis suggested the British Medical Association (BMA) has abandoned the principle of “first do no harm”.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “It seems clear that the junior doctors’ strike is causing serious risk of loss of life, and certainly causing harm and pain to thousands of our constituents. The first line of the Hippocratic Oath is first do no harm.
“When does the Prime Minister think the BMA abandoned this central tenet of their profession?”
Mr Sunak said: “We value the work of junior doctors, and are keen to find a fair and reasonable settlement which recognises their role and the wider economic context facing the UK.
“He’s right to highlight the impact on patient safety, and that’s why this Government has brought forward minimum safety legislation to ensure that patients can rely on a core level of emergency service to protect vital patient care.”
Government defends record on dentistry
The Prime Minister defended the Government’s record on dentistry, and claimed more children were now able to see an NHS dentist than in previous years.
Sir Ed Davey raised Liberal Democrat data at Prime Minister’s Questions, telling MPs: “Tooth decay is the number one reason that children over four end up in hospital. Regular dental check ups could prevent that but too many parents can’t get them for their child.
“Will the Prime Minister take up the Liberal Democrat plan to end this crisis and make sure people can get an NHS dentist when they need one?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “The NHS recently reformed dentistry contracts, which will improve access for patients. Dentistry received about £3 billion a year. There were around 500 more dentists delivering care in the NHS last year than the year before.
“He mentioned children, I am pleased to say that almost 45% more children saw an NHS dentist in that year compared to the year before.”
SNP ask why Scots Tory leader suggested voters could back Labour
The leader of the SNP at Westminster, Stephen Flynn, asks why the leader of the Scottish Conservatives urged voters to back Labour instead of his own party.
Douglas Ross has since backtracked on comments he made suggesting Conservative voters could vote Labour at the next general election in seats where Keir Starmer’s party had a better chance of winning against the SNP.
In a thinly-veiled reference to arrests within the SNP, Mr Sunak replies: “We’re focused on delivering for the people of Scotland … At the moment him and his party are focussed on other matters, we’re just going to motor on.”
Starmer: Nothing works anymore after 13 years of Tory rule
Finishing his final question, Sir Keir lists an array of public services he says no longer work after thirteen years of the Conservatives.
“People can see it wherever they look. Our roads, our trains, the NHS, the asylum system, policing, mental health provision, the Tories have broken them all.
“And all they’ve got left is excuses and blame. I know the prime minister would rather talk about maths lessons than the state of the country. But perhaps he can solve this equation: Why after 13 years of a Tory government are patients waiting longer than ever? Criminals walking free? Growth non-existent?
“And why, everywhere you look, nothing seems to work at all?”
Mr Sunak says that when Mr Starmer was the director of public prosecutions, he got a special pension, and accuses him of wanting to put up taxes on ordinary Brits.
“It’s one law for him and tax rises for everyone else,” he says.
Crisis in criminal justice ‘snapshot of collapsing public services’ – Starmer
The speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is forced to intervene several times as Mr Sunak and Mr Starmer trade barbs about the Labour leader’s time as Director of Public Prosecutions.
Mr Sunak said that during Starmer’s time as leader of the Crown Prosecution Service, it was accused of letting down victims – pointing to historic comments made by Labour’s Emily Thornberry which attacked the running of the CPS under Starmer.
Mr Starmer says he was commended by a committee in a report presented to former Tory PM Theresa May for his work as the country’s chief prosecutor.
“Perhaps if the prime minister spent less time trying to rewrite history and more time sorting out the mess he’s made,” he says. “The crisis in criminal justice is just a snapshot for public services collapsing under his watch”.
Starmer: ‘Thousands of criminals aren’t in prison because of Government failings’
Starmer has pointed to his record as the former director of public prosecutions in seeking to deflect from Sunak’s accusation that he is “soft on crime”.
He says: “I prosecuted thousands upon thousands of sex offenders. He’s just shown he doesn’t understand how the criminal justice system works.
“He thinks that cracking down on crime is suspending a sentence where someone should be in prison. That shows the problem.”
He says that some criminals are getting away without jail sentences because of prison overcrowding on the Conservatives’ watch.
“In simple terms, the wrecking ball that the Tories have taken to criminal justice means that thousands of people who should be in prison aren’t,” he says.
Starmer: Government letting violent criminals go free
Labour leader Keir Starmer accuses the Government of creating “the largest court backlog on record”, leading to some criminals not recieving as tough a punishment as they could.
PMQs has largely been characterised so far by the two party leaders trading barbs on who is tougher on crime.
“He’s letting violent criminals go free,” he says.
In response, Mr Sunak says: “We’re cracking down on grooming gangs … We toughened the law on sex offenders so they spend longer in prison, and he voted against it.”
Sunak: Labour leader is ‘Sir Softy’ on crime
Asked again about public services, Mr Sunak accuses Keir Starmer of being ‘Sir Softy’ on crime.
The speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has to intervene to keep calm.
The Labour leader Sir Keir returns to the theme of public services, saying: “Either the prime minister doesn’t use the same public services as the rest of us, or he simply can’t see the damage they’ve done to our country.”
He raises the case of a people smuggler who threw boiling water over a prison officer, asking whether Mr Sunak agrees that he should’ve recieved a prison sentence.
Mr Sunak says the Goverment has toughened sentences for attacks on emergency workers.