Commons speaker backs proposal to look into Boris Johnson's 'inaccuracies' before parliament
- Credit: PA
A cross-party panel of MPs will be asked to consider how misleading comments in the Commons should be corrected over concerns from opposition MPs that Boris Johnson is consistently dishonest.
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle backed a proposal for the Commons Procedure Committee to look into “how perceived inaccuracies could be corrected” in a bid to improve transparency.
He met six opposition party leaders over their concerns on Tuesday, including the Lib Dem’s Sir Ed Davey, the SNP’s Ian Blackford and Green MP Caroline Lucas.
Lucas said the rules for honesty at the despatch box are designed for a less “Trumpian” era, as she accused the prime minister of being a “serial liar”.
MPs are concerned that Johnson has given misleading statements during Prime Minister’s Questions and that there has been a failure to correct the record.
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A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office said: “Mr Speaker welcomed the meeting and the proposal to ask the Procedure Committee to look into how perceived inaccuracies could be corrected.
“He hoped such a measure would improve transparency in House of Commons proceedings.”
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The opposition MPs are writing to the committee chaired by Tory MP Karen Bradley, asking it to consider how misleading statements should be corrected.
If the committee did agree to consider the request, and then proposed rule changes, a Commons vote would be required in order to approve them.
Sir Lindsay last month slapped down Johnson in the Commons as he faced claims of lying over Labour’s position on NHS funding.
The Speaker told MPs: “It is not dishonourable to make a mistake, but to seek to avoid admitting one is a different matter.”
The prime minister’s then press secretary Allegra Stratton would neither apologise nor correct the record when repeatedly challenged by journalists over Johnson’s disputed remarks.
On Wednesday, Lucas told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Unfortunately I say he is a serial liar.
“This is a man who isn’t just lying occasionally, he is routinely lying at the despatch box and that makes it impossible for MPs to hold him to account.
“Essentially the rules that we have were written for another era where we didn’t live with a prime minister who shows a kind of Trumpian disdain for the rules.”
She said the rules currently set out that it is the responsibility of ministers to correct the record and the role of the speaker is “very constrained”, while the ministerial code is based on the premise the prime minister is the ultimate judge of standards.
“That is farcical because it obviously never occurred to the authors of the code that the person in breach of the standards might be the prime minister himself, so effectively he’s allowed to police his own actions,” Lucas said.
The meeting with the speaker came after the opposition MPs wrote to him saying they believe Johnson’s behaviour “amounts to a contempt of the House”.
“This is not a question of occasional inaccuracies or a misleading use of figures: it is a consistent failure to be honest with the facts, or to correct wrong information at the earliest opportunity when misleading information is given,” they wrote.
The Procedure Committee said: “The committee will consider any request it receives to look at the matter of ministerial corrections in the new session of parliament.”
Labour raised concern about another incident at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday after Johnson accused Sir Keir Starmer of opposing the Brexit trade deal – when in fact his MPs were whipped to vote for it.
The prime minister’s current press secretary claimed Johnson was making a wider point about Labour’s stance on Brexit.
“It’s a matter of public record that they did vote in favour of that, but the broader point is Keir Starmer has consistently backed a second referendum and said he would vote to remain,” she said.
She denied that Johnson was “sloppy” in his use of language and insisted the prime minister believed it was important to be accurate in his Commons comments.
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