Labour tells Rishi Sunak to check his 'ego' after Chancellor accuses Keir Starmer of misleading Commons over Yorkshire wedding business

Rishi Sunak has been urged to focus his efforts on saving the economy after writing to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accusing him of breaking House of Commons etiquette.

In a letter seen by The Yorkshire Post, Mr Sunak accused Sir Keir of having “inadvertently misled” the Commons after an exchange with Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

During the weekly standoff, Sir Keir referenced a wedding business in the Chancellor’s own North Yorkshire constituency of Richmond who had contacted him to say they could not get any help under the new job support scheme launched by Mr Sunak last week.

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Mandy Baker-Bird, the owner of Yorkshire Wedding Barns, near Richmond, since broke cover to publicly describe her industry as a “sacrificial lamb” and said she was having to look at making redundancies in order to save her business.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. Photo: PA

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But on Thursday, Mr Sunak wrote to Sir Keir to say he had “misled” the House and should have contacted him first about matters in his constituency, as Commons guidelines dictate.

And he added: “I appreciate you will be busy so understand that such an oversight will have been made in error, but in future I would be most grateful if you could do the appropriate due diligence and minimise the future risk of such mistakes.”

The letter detailed how Sir Keir had “inadvertently misled the House on the facts and circumstances under which my constituent finds themselves” as Ms Baker-Bird had accessed a variety of Government schemes to support her business including a Government-backed loan, £10,000 grant, and made use of the furlough scheme.

Mr Sunak said she had also had written correspondence from his office and attended a constituency surgery.

Sir Keir’s intervention did not claim that Ms Baker-Bird had never received any support, but that the latest scheme - where a business has to be judged as viable by being able to bring back staff for a third of their hours to access extra help - did not assist her as events could not go ahead.

In an email from Ms Baker-Bird shared by Labour she said she had received “a £10,000 grant in March but nothing since”.

Bridget Phillipson, shadow chief secretary to the treasury, said: “This letter raises serious concerns about Rishi Sunak’s priorities.

“Businesses in his own backyard are telling him that his economic plan will force them to lay off staff. But rather than respond to their concerns, he complains that someone else did instead. The Chancellor should focus on protecting jobs and businesses, not on his own ego.”

But a source close to Mr Sunak said: “When a Leader of the Opposition makes this kind of statement in the House as a political weapon, it's important to point out Keir could have been misleading the House, to point out he should have followed parliamentary etiquette for future reference and for others as well.”

They added that it was the email circulated by Ms Baker-Bird by Labour which was misleading, rather than Sir Keir’s comments in the Commons.

In the letter sent to Sir Keir, Mr Sunak said: “Rest assured I will continue to do all I can to support the economy as the Government works to protect the jobs, livelihoods and businesses of people across the UK, including those of the constituent in question.”

House of Commons guidelines say that if an MP is going to raise an issue in another MP’s constituency, they should first make them aware in advance.

The Commons’ members and constituency etiquette guide reads: “The Speaker has stated on several occasions that when issues relating to another constituency are to be raised, it is good practice for the Member concerned to inform the other Member(s) involved in advance.”