Angela Rayner accused the Tories of having “given up” as she highlighted the fact Rishi Sunak is set to miss two Prime Minister’s Questions in a row.
Labour deputy leader opened PMQs telling the Commons what a pleasure it was to see Oliver Dowden standing in for the Prime Minister, adding: “I think I’m right in saying that I have the pleasure again next week. Two weeks on the trot. They really have given up.”
Mr Sunak skipped his weekly grilling in the Commons for the NHS 75th Anniversary service in Westminster Abbey today and is expected to miss it again next week to attend the Nato summit in Lithuania.
Dowden fires back
Mr Dowden hit back at Sir Keir Starmer’s deputy with a hint of sarcasm, saying: “It may come as a surprise to her, but actually some leaders trust their deputies to stand in for them.”
The exchange between the two deputies quickly turned to housing policies, with Ms Rayner advocating for greater tenant protections and a ban on no-fault evictions.
Meanwhile, Mr Dowden staunchly defended the Government’s record on renters’ security and emphasised a commitment to supporting both mortgage holders and renters.
Ms Rayner told the Commons: “Every day 4,000 families’ mortgage deals expire, 100,000 more since we last met, and millions more next year. Families are sick with worry about the cost of the Tory mortgage bombshell.
“Do they still claim to be the party of homeownership?”
Mr Dowden said he supports the independence of the Bank of England “taking the necessary measures to control inflation” and quoted the International Monetary Fund’s assessment of “decisive and responsible action” to bring down inflation.
He went on: “We will continue to do so. But what’s Labour’s plan?
“To borrow £28 billion a year, pushing up inflation, to cut our domestic energy supply, pushing up inflation, and to penalise workers saving into their pensions, pushing up inflation. There we have it from Labour, endless borrowing and higher prices.”
Ms Rayner noted “it’s not just homeowners that are suffering” as the “security of renters have been ripped away, too”, adding: “Given most renters live in homes with buy-to-let mortgage, can he tell us: are buy-to-let properties included in their mortgage support package?”
The Deputy Prime Minister pointed to the Government introducing legislation “for the first time to support renters to give them greater security of tenure”.
Pressed on whether the Conservatives will “finally deliver their promise to ban no-fault evictions”, Mr Dowden said: “I don’t think the Prime Minister is going to take any lectures on weakness from the party opposite. There’s a lot of talk about reshuffle in the air from the Labour Party, the last time the leader of the Labour Party (Sir Keir Starmer) tried to sack (Ms Rayner) she walked out with a promotion.
“We will continue to stand behind renters and to support them.”
Ms Rayner then expressed frustration with Mr Dowden’s tendency to shift blame on the opposition, saying: “I asked a question about no-fault evictions.
“I was very clear on what the Labour Party would do, but I can’t see us getting through a single one of these encounters without the Deputy Prime Minister blaming the opposition for his Government’s own record.”
She added: “When asked yesterday about the record low number of council houses being built, the housing minister says she didn’t recognise that statistic.
“When asked about support for people in temporary accommodation, she said it wasn’t her brief.
“The brief of the housing minister.
“So if council housing isn’t her responsibility. Whose is it?”
The Deputy PM insisted it is “actually under this Government that more council houses were built than when they (Labour) were in office”, adding: “But look at what we have done more broadly: inflation and waiting lists coming down, growth forecasts up, Albanian crossings down.”