Rail strikes: what Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer said during PMQs about industrial dispute

The strike action affecting rail services was among the topics Boris Johnson was quizzed about in PMQs

Boris Johnson faced a grilling during PMQs by Sir Keir Starmer over what he was doing about the crippling strike action hitting train services.

The Prime Minister said they were “doing everything we can” to prevent the strikes, while the Labour leader said the country is “screaming” for Mr Johnson to “get on with your job” and resolve the dispute.

Sir Keir added Mr Johnson is more focused on increasing bankers’ pay rather than “those who are running the country”, as he contrasted Government calls for wage restraint against reports the Government wants to reduce controls on City bosses’ pay.

But Mr Johnson claimed Labour would take the UK “back to the 1970s” and said Sir Keir does not have the “gumption to speak out against the rail strikes”.

Following Tuesday’s strikes on the rail network and London Underground, trains will also be halted on Thursday and Saturday.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson during PMQs.Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson during PMQs.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Boris Johnson during PMQs.

What did Sir Keir say about the strikes?

Sir Keir said Mr Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps “haven’t attended a single meeting, held a conversation or lifted a finger to stop” the rail strikes.

He added: “But I did note that on Monday they did find time to go to a lavish ball where the Prime Minister sold a meeting with himself for £120,000… If there’s money coming his way, he’s there.

“So rather than blame everyone else, why doesn’t he do his job, get round the table and get the trains running?”

At one point Sir Keir said to Mr Johnson “He can’t help himself – there’s a huge problem facing the country and all he’s interested in doing is blaming everyone else.

“Can’t he hear the country screaming at him: get on with your job?

“Whilst he blames everyone and anyone, working people are paying the price.”

What did Boris Johnson say was being done about the strikes?

Labour’s frontbenchers had been told to avoid picket lines but senior party figures including whip Navendu Mishra joined striking rail workers, and the Prime Minister referenced this during the heated debate.

Mr Johnson hit back at the Labour leader saying didn’t have the “gumption” to call out MPs who were on the picket lines.

He said: “We are making sure that we do everything we can to prevent these strikes. He knows it is up to the railway companies to negotiate, that is their job. We’ve spent £16 billion looking after the railways throughout the pandemic, that’s cost every household £600.”

Speaking of Sir Keir he added: “We know why he won’t condemn the strikes, we know why even now he hasn’t got the gumption to call out his MPs for going out to support the pickets. The reason his authority is on the line in this matter is that they take £10 million… that’s the fee the learned gentleman opposite is receiving for the case he is failing to make.”

He also claimed that 25 Labour MPs out on the picket line were “defying instruction” from Sir Keir, and suggested Labour was backing strikers, not “strivers”.

Later on Mr Johnson said the Government is “cutting the cost of transport for working people by delivering reforms”, adding on Labour: “They’re out on the picket line literally holding hands with Arthur Scargill. It’s worse than under Jeremy Corbyn.

“This is a Government that is taking this country forward, they would take it back to the 1970s.”