Tensions reached a fever pitch in the House of Commons yesterday as a Newcastle MP pushed Boris Johnson to respond to 130,000 people calling for lying in parliament to be made a criminal offence.
Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, questioned the Prime Minister during a session of Parliament’s Liaison Committee on Wednesday.
Ms McKinnell challenged the Tory leader on his inability to be "clear or straight" in response to breaches of lockdown laws by his colleagues.
The MP said: “How would you respond to 130,000 plus petitioners who are calling for lying in the House of Commons to be made a criminal offence?”
The Prime Minister responded: “I think it is very important that you should be clear with the House of Commons and I’ve tried to be as clear as I can about my understanding of events”.
Ms McKinnell followed up her question: “The words that you have just used, ‘tried to be as clear as I can’, I think that is the big concern that people have, that you are not able to be clear or straight on these issues if you can’t even answer the question as to whether any laws were broken in Whitehall....Can you at least give a clear answer on that?”
“Can you appreciate Prime Minister that throwing a party for Tory MPs on the anniversary of the Covid memorial, on the day Fixed Penalty Notices were issued for lockdown breaking in Whitehall might give the impression that you don’t care about how they feel about this?”
Mr Johnson replied that his Government had "done everything we can" to protect the public during the pandemic.
He added: "Yes, I care deeply, but we have worked incredibly hard across the whole of Government to look after the population during the pandemic.
"Some things went well some things went less well but overall, the record of the UK Government in dealing with Covid has been pretty remarkable and I am proud of it.”
The Newcastle North MP locked horns with the Prime Minister again today during a Liaison Committee hearing.
Ms McKinnell challenged Mr Johnson on how many times child poverty was mentioned in the Levelling Up White Paper.
Stuttering, the Prime Minister fumbled: "I am afraid, I suppose you’re going to tell me it is not mentioned."
The Newcastle MP confirmed that was indeed the case.
Following the exchange, Catherine said: “Child poverty figures were going in the wrong direction in the North East even before the pandemic and the current crisis, but under this Government, the number of children and young people in absolute poverty will increase by a shocking 500,000 next year.
“The Government can’t talk about ‘levelling up’ without a strategy to address child poverty.
"Children and young people are having their life chances held back by ever-increasing numbers growing up in poverty, yet the Prime Minister seemed unaware before my question that the Government’s flagship Levelling Up White Paper doesn’t have a single mention of it.
"That is truly shameful”.