Furious Jess Phillips tells Boris Johnson to apologise for dismissing rape questions as “jabber”

Shadow minister for domestic violence Jess Phillips

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Boris Johnson is under increasing pressure to say sorry to rape victims after dismissing questions about the "appalling" record-low prosecution rate as "jabber".

Labour's Jess Phillips accused the PM of a "disgraceful" response to the shocking new government figures, which revealed a staggering 98.4% of reported rapes saw no conviction last year.

The Tory leader has apologised for the statistic but sparked anger when he shrugged off questions from Labour leader Keir Starmer's in the Commons, telling MPs to instead cheer the vaccine rollout.

“They jabber, we jab. They dither, we deliver. They vacillate, we vaccinate," he said.

Ms Phillips, Labour's Shadow Domestic Violence Minister, called on the Commons Speaker to force the PM to offer an immediate apology.

Lambasting the "pitiful" conviction rate, she repeated calls for action and underlined for every 60 people who reported a rape in 2019-2020, there had been one charge.

Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons
(Image: PA)

She added: "But more than anything what I would like to seek today is an apology from the person who is meant to keep our street safe and currently if you are a woman or a girl in this country, they are failing."

It comes as the government faced claims a decade of Tory austerity had left the Ministry of Justice reeling and as Victims Commissioner Dame Vera Baird called ministers' Rape Review "underwhelming" and a bid to "kick the can down the road".

The Labour MP added in a statement: “For the Prime Minister to describe questions about rape convictions as ‘jabber’ is disgraceful. But this is the man who once said investigating child sexual abuse was ‘spaffing money up the wall’ – he simply doesn’t care about tackling sexual violence."

Mr Johnson ’s press secretary said the Prime Minister would not be withdrawing the comment and claimed "jabber" was aimed at the Labour Party, not the questions.

“As you can see from what he set out, that is certainly not his view and he spent the whole exchange talking about the action we are taking,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

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Asked why Mr Johnson used the word “jabber”, she replied: “I think that exact phrase was used at the end of the exchange and I think it was a broader point about the fact that Labour often do not follow up their words with actions – similar to wanting to talk about tougher sentences but not actually voting for the bill that would deliver that.”

Mr Starmer had used PMQs to attack the government's record on protecting women, underlining that prosecutions had halved over the course of the last five years, asking the PM: “Why under this Government has the number of rape convictions and prosecutions fallen to a record low?”

He added: “We all agree that the figures are appalling, the question is why? The Government’s own review makes clear that rape convictions and prosecutions have halved since 2016.”

The Labour leader added: “This wasn’t inevitable, it’s the cost of a decade of Conservative cuts and even now the Government isn’t showing the urgency and ambition that’s needed.”

The PM insisted he was fighting for tougher sentences for rapists, and when pressed to say sorry, told MPs: "And of course to all the victims of rape and sexual violence, all the victims, and survivors, of course I say sorry to the trauma they have been through, the frustration that they go through because of the inadequacies of the criminal justice system."

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