Rishi Sunak took aim at Sir Keir Starmer over his “flip-flops” as the pair clashed in PMQs today. The Prime Minister hit back at the Labour leader as he was pressed on his climbdown over housebuilding in the face of a Tory rebellion.
Using his first questions to grill Mr Sunak on the watering down of housing targets, Sir Keir said: “The Conservative Party promised the country it would build 300,000 houses a year. This week, without asking a single voter, the Prime Minister broke that promise by scrapping mandatory targets. What changed?”
The Prime Minister replied: “Now the honourable gentleman comes here every week and I know he’s focused on the process and the politics, but I don’t think he has actually taken the time to read the detail of what we are doing to improve our planning system.
“So, let me just explain what we are doing: we are protecting the greenbelt, we are investing millions to develop brownfield sites and we are providing support and protection for local neighbourhood plans.
“Just this morning the shadow housing secretary said, she said, communities should have control over where homes are built and what sort of homes are built. That’s my position. That’s her position. What’s his position?”
Sir Keir went on to brand Mr Sunak as a “blancmange Prime Minister” who “sold out the aspirations of those who want to own their own home”.
The Labour leader said: “Does he really expect us to believe that the member for Chipping Barnet and the member for the Isle of Wight are cheering him on because he’s going to build more homes?”
Sir Keir added: “I’ll tell him what changed: his backbenchers threatened him. And, as always, the blancmange Prime Minister wobbled.
“He did a grubby deal with a handful of his MPs and sold out the aspirations of those who want to own their own home. Was it worth it?”
Mr Sunak replied: “As ever, engaging in the petty personality politics, not focused on the substance. Again, let me explain what we’re doing.
“We’re delivering what I said we would do: we are protecting the character of local communities, we are cracking down on land banking and irresponsible developers. And we are giving people a greater say in their decisions.
“Just this week, on Monday, the honourable gentleman said the Government should be giving people more power and control. Now he seems to be opposing that policy. It’s only Wednesday, I know he flip-flops but, even for him, it’s pretty quick.”
Sir Keir also pressed Mr Sunak on Tory peer Baroness Mone taking a leave of absence from the Lords following allegations linking her to a firm awarded contracts for PPE during the Covid pandemic, as well as fears over Strep A infections following the deaths of at least nine children across the UK.
Elsewhere during PMQs, the SNP’s new Westminster leader Stephen Flynn made his first remarks in the Commons since taking over the role from Ian Blackford.
But Mr Flynn prompted mocking laughter from parts of the Commons as he described his predecessor as a “giant of Scottish independence” in a tribute.
And Mr Sunak shut down a question from the SNP Westminster leader, who asked: “In the last 15 minutes a poll has landed which shows the support for Scottish independence has now hit 56 percent. And support for the Scottish National Party sits north of 50 percent.
“So, in that context, can I ask the Prime Minister does he consider that increasing energy bills on households in energy-rich Scotland by a further £500 will cause those poll numbers to rise or to fall?”
The PM replied: “What we’re delivering for households across the United Kingdom, including those in Scotland, is £55 billion of support with energy bills.
“It will save a typical homeowner about £900 with their bills this winter, with extra support for the most vulnerable, and that is an example of the United Kingdom and the union delivering for people in Scotland.”