Angela Rayner has faced Boris Johnson for the first time at Prime Minister’s Questions, accusing him of “incompetence” in the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
She said the PM was focused on restoring grouse shooting, rather than fixing the testing system.
He replied he faced “the most difficult dilemmas of any modern government” and accused Labour of “carping”.
The deputy Labour leader was standing in for Sir Keir Starmer.
The Labour leader had been isolating after his child had coronavirus symptoms, and ahead of PMQs, the Labour leader tweeted that the child’s test result had come back negative.
Ms Rayner, who was a leading member of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet, used her questions to tackle Mr Johnson on pay for care workers, coronavirus testing and the rules on who can accompany women during labour.
On coronavirus, she accused ministers of having “no plan” for dealing with a virus resurgence, despite “staring down the barrel at a second wave”.
Instead, she said, ministers had made it a “top priority” to exclude grouse shooting from the ‘rule of six’ social distancing rules introduced earlier this month.
Mr Johnson hit back, accusing the opposition of “carping from the side-lines” and “raising issues that are tangential and scare stories”.
He said his government was “getting on with delivering the priorities of the British people”.
“This government is facing the most difficult dilemmas of any modern government has had to face but everyday we are helping to solve them thanks to the massive common sense of the British people who are getting on with delivering our programme and our fight against coronavirus,” he said.
Ms Rayner opened her questioning by asking the prime minister if he knew the average hourly rate for a care worker in this country.
When Mr Johnson did not specifically answer her question she said: “The whole country would have seen that the prime minister doesn’t know how much a care worker earns – the shameful fact is the average wage in social care is barely more than £8 an hour.”
The prime minister did say he was “proud that it is this government that has instituted the national living wage that ensures every worker is paid substantially more” adding that he was committed to giving care homes “the cash they need”.
On testing, Ms Rayner said the government had “failed” to meet its own targets and in a dig at the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings said: “The next time a man with Covid symptoms drives from London to Durham it will probably be for the nearest Covid test.”
Mr Johnson argued that the UK was “testing more than any other European country”.
However, on the subject of labour wards, the pair struck a more conciliatory note. Ms Rayner expressed concern that guidance issued this week meant birth partners would not be allowed to join pregnant women until “the moment of established labour”.
She ask the prime minister to “work with us to ensure no woman is forced to give birth without the support they need”.
Mr Johnson said he was “very happy to encourage co-operation”.
Ms Rayner, who has been MP for Ashton-Under-Lyme since 2015 and previously served as shadow education secretary, was leading the opposition at PMQs for the first time.
Half an hour before the session, Sir Keir tweeted: “I’m very pleased and relieved that the test result for one of my children came back negative this morning.
Thank you to the NHS hospital where my wife works for ensuring that their staff and family members have quick access to a test.”
Sir Keir could have asked his questions to the PM via zoom, but Labour opted to give Ms Rayner an opportunity to stand in for him in the chamber, the BBC understands.
After Prime Minister’s Questions, he tweeted praise of his colleague, describing her performance as “fantastic”.
Mr Johnson is due to face questions from senior backbenchers on the Commons Liaison Committee about the UK’s current negotiations with the EU and the economic response to the pandemic.
The 90-minute session, which will also cover the government’s review of defence and foreign policy, will be the second time the prime minister has appeared before the body, which is made up of MPs who chair select committees.
In a similar session in May, Mr Johnson was asked about his chief aide Mr Cummings’ controversial trip to Durham at the height of the lockdown and problems with the UK’s testing system and sourcing of protective equipment for NHS workers.
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This time, those asking the questions will include Tory MPs Sir Bob Neill, Tobias Ellwood and Mel Stride, who have been critical of attempts by the government to seek powers to override the EU Withdrawal Agreement.
The committee is chaired by Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, who has defended the prime minster’s actions and said the UK should repudiate the agreement if necessary.
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