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MPs write to the Speaker over Prime Minister’s ‘failure to be truthful’ in Parliament

WESTMINSTER party leaders call for parliamentary inquiry into Boris Johnson’s ‘failure to be honest’

A group of party leaders at Westminster has written to the Speaker calling for an early motion to challenge the Prime Minister’s persistent failure to give accurate information to the House of Commons.

The MPs say the standing and reputation of Parliament is being put at risk by the lack of truthfulness in statements by the Prime Minister and his consistent failure to live up to the standards of the Ministerial Code and Nolan Principles, in particular the requirement for honesty and truthfulness in public life.

The MPs list a number of recent examples where the Prime Minister has made misleading or inaccurate statements to the House, which he has then failed to correct as is expected in the Ministerial Code.

The inaccuracies include:

Claiming in January 2020 that “The economy under this Conservative Government has grown by 73%”. That is the growth figure since 1990, a period which also covers 13 years of Labour governments.
Claiming in March 2020 that “we have restored the nurses’ bursary”. Although student nurses have been awarded a maintenance grant, this is not equivalent to the nurses’ bursary
A statement in June 2020 that “There are hundreds of thousands, I think 400,000, fewer families living in poverty now than there were in 2010”. This was denied by both the Children’s Commissioner and the Office for Statistics Regulation.
A claim in February that “Bridgend would be one of the great centres of battery manufacturing in Britain”, which the Government later admitted was wrong but the Prime Minister has never formally retracted.
Also in February, the Prime Minister said about Covid-related contracts that “all the details are on the record”, in direct contradiction to a High Court ruling which had found the Government to be in breach of the law for not putting everything on the record.
In a statement to MPs on March 11th, the Speaker said: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.”

None of these inaccuracies has been corrected. In one case, it was repeated the following week.

The MPs say this consistent failure to be honest with the facts, or to correct wrong information, amounts to a contempt of the House. They are asking the Speaker to allow the tabling of a motion drawing attention to the matter so that it can be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“Lies, corruption scandals and a lack of accountability have defined Westminster’s broken politics for years. But never before has trust in politics been so miserably undermined than by Boris Johnson’s catalogue of lies.

“It is time for the Prime Minister to be held to account. If current structures prove incapable of doing so, there clearly need to be a change in the law to stop a further decline in the quality of public debate.”

Caroline Lucas MP, who coordinated the letter, said:

“Parliament’s reputation has been battered in the past which is why we have the Nolan Principles for conduct in public life. But these are being repeatedly ignored by the Prime Minister.

“MPs’ job is to hold government to account and we can only do that if ministers give accurate information to the House. That is a core principle of our democracy and it is being undermined by the Prime Minister himself. He is not only showing contempt for Parliament, he is also undermining people’s trust in our system of government. It’s time he was held to account.”

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