Home Secretary James Cleverly has denied calling a North East town a "s***hole" in Parliament.

At Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday, Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham asked Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: "Why are 34% of children in my constituency living in poverty?" It was alleged a Tory MP could be heard to respond: "Because it's a s***hole."

Teesside Live reports he has called for an apology, but Mr Cleverly denied making the alleged remark, and it was said that the Commons Speaker "didn't hear any remark of the kind" - though MPs were reminded of the need for "good temper and moderation".

The apparent comment was reported on X, formerly Twitter, and Labour has made reference to the comment being caught on audio as the Prime Minister took to the despatch box. Labour attributed the comment to a Conservative MP.

Multiple Labour MPs said they believed it was Mr Cleverly who made the comment. The claim was strongly denied, with his spokesman telling The Mirror: "He did not, and would not. He’s disappointed they would accuse him of doing so."

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: "No Conservative MP made any negative remarks about Stockton".

Mr Cunningham later raised a point of order on Wednesday afternoon (November 22), saying: "During Prime Minister's Questions today, I asked the Prime Minister why 34% of children in my constituency lived in poverty. Before the Prime Minister answered, the Home Secretary chose to add in his pennyworth.

"Yes I have contacted his office advising him I planned to name him but sadly he's chosen not to be in the chamber. He was seen and heard to say: 'Because it's a shithole,'" Mr Cunningham told Parliament, to an audible gasp and remark of "no way".

He added: "I know he is denying being the culprit but the audio is clear and has been checked and checked and checked again. There is no doubt that these comments shame the Home Secretary, this rotten government and the Tory Party.

"He is clearly unfit for his high office. Can you please advise me how I can secure an apology from the Home Secretary at the despatch box for his appalling insult and foul language?"

Stockton North Labour man Alex Cunningham
Stockton North Labour man Alex Cunningham

Eleanor Laing, deputy speaker, responded: "My understanding is that Mr Speaker didn't hear any remark of the kind from the Chair at the time. I understand that the alleged words were not actually used, though I appreciate what the Honourable Gentleman says.

"But I think we all know that it's very difficult in the noisy atmosphere of Prime Minister's Questions to discern exactly what someone says. So I can make no judgment here from the Chair as to what was or wasn't said.

"But I can understand the Honourable Gentleman's concern, and I would remind all honourable members of the need for good temper and moderation in the language they use in this chamber, and that those rules of decency should be observed in particular when referring to other honourable members and to the constituents and constituencies that they represent.

"I'm quite sure that, being an Honourable Gentleman, if an apology is necessary it will be issued to the Honourable Gentleman. But I can make my judgment one way or the other."

Rishi Sunak replied to the original question: "It's this government that has ensured that across our country 1.7 million fewer people are living in poverty as a result of the actions of this government."

To a response of "that's not true", Mr Sunak responded: "Yes, that is true. Not only that, hundreds of thousands fewer children are living in poverty and income inequality is at a lower level than we inherited from the party opposite.

"But we don't want any child to grow up in poverty and the best way to make sure that happens is to ensure they do not grow up in a workless household and that is why the right strategy is to ensure that we provide as many children with the opportunity with grow up with parents in work."

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