Champion honesty and fix parliament's corrections process: Full Fact writes to senior politicians

19 March 2021 | Team Full Fact

We all make mistakes. We know that politicians will make mistakes when they speak in public, and that’s okay. Full Fact has never sought a world without mistakes. 

What we will always fight for though, is a world where politicians calmly and quickly correct their mistakes. 

Unfortunately this doesn’t happen often enough. 

Last week, in parliament, the Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said to MPs: 

“All Members of this House are honourable. They must take responsibility for correcting the record if a mistake has been made. It is not dishonourable to make a mistake, but to seek to avoid admitting one is a different matter.”

Why don’t more politicians correct their mistakes? 

Well, for one thing, the current system in parliament only allows government ministers to make corrections to the official record. All other MPs, including the most senior opposition politicians, have to make a verbal correction during a debate, or raise a Point of Order (where they make a short statement to the Speaker) if they want to clarify something. 

This means the official record of their mistake is still wrong. 

Even those who can do not always use the system. We have previously highlighted examples of government ministers who don’t admit when they have made an error in something they’ve said, and ignore requests to correct the record.  

The public deserves better than a system that pretends mistakes don’t happen.

Some politicians may view correcting the record as political weakness, or something that is only used to score party political points.

The fact that only government ministers can actually correct the record only perpetuates this view of the process as partisan, and we believe it needs to change if we are to have any hope of creating a culture of correcting mistakes. 

Full Fact has written to a number of senior politicians involved in the workings of parliament, including the Speaker and the Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley MP, and asked them to implement a simple and efficient system that allows all MPs to correct the official record. 

Having access to good, reliable information has never been more important. We all deserve honesty and accuracy from our elected representatives, especially during a health emergency, when bad information puts lives at risk.  

MPs often talk about rebuilding trust in politics. This is an easy chance to prove they mean it.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.