Sir Keir Starmer has branded the prime minister “inaction man” over the problems facing the UK’s schools and prisons.
Mr Sunak has been greeted with a number of problems on returning to Westminster from the summer recess, including a crisis involving concrete in public buildings, the escape of a terror suspect from prison and allegations researchers in Westminster spied for China.
The Labour leader attacked Rishi Sunak’s record on his handling of the issues during a testy session of prime minister’s questions, telling the Commons: “Probation, prison, schools, China – yet again, inaction man fails to heed the warnings and then blames everyone else.”
Mr Sunak’s problems began when the Department for Education (DfE) announced that more than 100 schools have been ordered to close or partially close due to the presence reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a type of concrete that is prone to collapse after a period of time.
The sense of chaos prompted by the school closures at the start of the autumn term was compounded by the escape of Daniel Khalife, which prompted a four-day manhunt that culminated in his capture.
The two incidents have shone a spotlight on the Conservatives’ record in government, with Labour accusing the Tories of underspending and mismanagement.
Another issue the Opposition has sought to highlight is the small boats crisis in the Channel, after good weather saw more people make the perilous journey.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Keir said Suella Braverman’s first anniversary as home secretary had coincided with 40,000 people crossing the Channel, adding: “That is if you overlook the six days she missed when she was deemed a national security risk.”
“In that year, 40,000 people have crossed the Channel on a small boat, and the taxpayer is now spending £6m a day on hotel bills,” he said.
“He is failing to stop terrorists strolling out of prison, failing to guard Britain against hostile actors, he is completely failing to stop the boats. How can anyone trust him to protect the country?”
Mr Sunak hit back by pointing to the government’s Levelling Up Bill, which he said would result in more house-building.
He told MPs: “He talks about trust, he tried in this House to talk the talk on housebuilding, but at the first sign of a cheap political hit, what did he do? He has caved in.
“Rather than make the right long-term decisions for the country he has taken the easy way out,” he said.
“It is typical of the principles-free, conviction-free type of leadership that he offers.
“Flip-flopping from being a builder to a blocker. The British people can’t trust a word he says.”