PMQs live: Keir Starmer clashes with Rishi Sunak over Suella Braverman appointment
The pair faced off for the first time since Rishi Sunak was appointed Prime Minister on Tuesday
Sir Keir Starmer has clashed with Rishi Sunak over the appointment of Suella Braverman during Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).
Taking his first PMQ's, Mr Sunak defended re-appointing Ms Braverman as Home Secretary days after she was forced out of the role by saying she had accepted making an “error of judgment”.
Ms Braverman was re-appointed as part of Mr Sunak's Cabinet on Tuesday, six days after she was sacked for a security breach.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have raised “national security” concerns and demanded a Cabinet Office investigation on Wednesday after the new Prime Minister brought her back.
Cabinet Secretary Simon Case, the most senior civil servant, is “livid” over her swift return and “very concerned” about the breach, a source told the Times.
Liz Truss forced Ms Braverman out after she breached the ministerial code by sending an official document to a Tory backbencher from a personal email.
Ms Braverman, who had been in the role six weeks, said she made a “mistake” which she conceded was a “technical infringement” of the rules.
Labour leader Sir Keir welcomed Mr Sunak during his opening remarks in the House of Commons.
He added it was a “significant moment in our national story” that Mr Sunak was the first Prime Minister of South Asian descent.
Sir Keir asked: “Was his Home Secretary right to resign last week for a breach of security?”
Mr Sunak replied: “The Home Secretary made an error of judgment but she recognised that, she raised the matter and she accepted her mistake.
“That is why I was delighted to welcome her back into a united cabinet that brings experience and stability to the heart of Government.”
The PM added: "What the Home Secretary will be focused on cracking down on criminals, on defending our borders, while the party opposite remains soft on crime and in favour of unlimited immigration."
The Labour leader then hit back by saying: "Yesterday, the Prime Minister stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised integrity, professionalism and accountability.
"But then, with his first act, he appointed a Home Secretary who was sacked by his predecessor a week ago for deliberately pinging around sensitive Home Office documents from her personal account."
The former director of public prosecutions then asked: “I know first hand how important it is that we have a Home Secretary whose integrity and professionalism are beyond question. So, have officials raised concerns about his decision to appoint her?”
Mr Sunak replied: “I just addressed the issue of the Home Secretary.
“He talked about fighting crime, I would hope that he would welcome the news today that there are over 15,000 new police officers on our streets and the Home Secretary will be supporting them to tackle burglaries, while the party opposite will be backing the lunatic protesting fringe that are stopping working people going about their lives.”
Sir Keir then argued the “Tories have crashed the economy”, adding “those with broadest shoulders must step up, does he agree?”
He said: “We can all see what’s happened here. He’s so weak, he’s done a grubby deal trading national security because he was scared to lose another leadership election. There’s a new Tory at the top but as always with them party first, country second.
“Yesterday on the steps of Downing Street he also admitted what the whole country knows, the Tories have crashed the economy and now somebody has to pay for their mess. I say it shouldn’t be working people who’ve been hammered time and again by this lot, but those with broadest shoulders must step up, does he agree?”
To which Mr Sunak replied: “(He) talked about party first and country second, perhaps he could explain to us why it was a few years ago he was supporting the member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn).
“My record is clear, when times are difficult in this country I will always protect the most vulnerable, that is the values of our compassionate party. We did it in Covid and we will do that again.
Sir Keir accused Mr Sunak of pretending to be on the side of working people, telling the Commons: “I am surprised he’s still defending non-dom status. He pretends he’s on the side of working people, but in private he says something very different.
“Over the summer he was secretly recorded at a garden party in Tunbridge Wells boasting to a group of Tory members that he personally moved money away from deprived areas to wealthy places instead. Rather than apologise or pretend that he meant something else, why doesn’t he now do the right thing and undo the changes he made to those funding formulas
To cheers, Mr Sunak replied: “I know (Sir Keir) rarely leaves north London, but if he does he will know that there are deprived areas in our rural communities, in our coastal communities and across the south, and this Government will relentlessly support them because we are a Government that will deliver across the United Kingdom.
“He mentioned the last few weeks – I’m the first to admit mistakes were made and that’s the reason I’m standing here. But that is the difference between him and me.
“This summer I was being honest about the difficulties that we were facing, but when he ran for leader he promised his party he would borrow billions and billions of pounds.
“I told the truth for the good of the country, he told his party what it wanted to hear. Leadership is not selling fairy tales, it is confronting challenges, and that is the leadership the British people will get from this Government.”
The Labour leader in his concluding remarks, said Mr Sunak is “not on the side of working people” before adding: “That’s why the only time he ran in a competitive election he got trounced by the former prime minister, who herself got beaten by a lettuce.
“So why doesn’t he put it to the test, let working people have their say and call a general election?”
Mr Sunak replied: “He talks about mandates, about votes, about elections, it’s a bit rich coming from the person who tried to overturn the biggest democratic vote in our country’s history.
“Our mandate is based on the manifesto that we were elected on – to remind him, an election we won and they lost.”