General election 2017
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May clashed at PMQs Getty Images, Reuters

Theresa May was forced to deny that she was "flip-flopping" over the government's 1% public sector pay as she faced Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons on Wednesday 5 July.

The prime minister explained that the 2% hike offered to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents more than 35,000 firefighters in the UK, came from the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services (NJC) rather than a public sector pay body, which oversee salaries for NHS workers, police officers and teachers.

"We will always recognise the need to take those [pay award] decisions against the need to ensure that we live within in our means," May said.

The Right Honourable gentleman and I both value public sector workers and public sector services, the difference is that I know we have to pay for them."

Corbyn, who won 30 extra seats for Labour at the election, hit back by attacking the Conservatives' "confidence and supply" agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The controversial deal is designed to enable May to govern with a minority government until the next scheduled election in 2022.

"The prime minister found £1bn to keep her own job so why can't she find the money to pay and protect the jobs of nurses and teachers?" the Labour leader said.

May, showing her fiscally conservative credentials, went on to defend her government's plan to tackle the budget deficit – the gap between public spending and the amount the Treasury raises – by warning that it would not be "fair" to bankrupt the country.

"In Greece where they haven't dealt with the deficit, what did we see? Spending on the health service cut by 36%," she said.

The fiery exchange between Corbyn and May, which was briefly interrupted by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who criticised "downmarket" MPs for heckling the Labour leader, comes almost a month after the election and weeks after the Grenfell Tower fire in west London.

The latest opinion poll from ICM, of more than 2,000 people between 30 June and 3 July, put Labour on 43%, the Conservatives on 41% and the Liberal Democrats on 7%, with Ukip and the Greens both on 3%.