We've written to every MP
This morning we’ve written to every MP and told them thousands of people want them to fix our broken political system.
We told them they expect politicians to admit publicly when they get things wrong. We urged them to agree new rules to make it easy to correct mistakes and stop politicians from misleading Parliament.
Thank you to everyone who has signed already.
Today the House of Commons will decide whether to order an inquiry into whether the Prime Minister misled the House about Downing Street parties.
We know that the crisis of honesty in politics goes further than the current news cycle. Whatever the outcome today, MPs should show that they care about honest public debate, from all sides of the house.
By signing our petition, 18,000 people have sent a message that MPs are there to lead us, not mislead us.
We’re going to keep up the pressure. We’ve also written to the Speaker and the Chair of the Procedure Committee. We’ve proposed a simple five-step process for upholding standards when an MP persistently fails to correct the record after making inaccurate statements.
Here’s what we wrote to all MPs this morning:
Alongside today's debate on the privilege motion, I am writing to you with a briefing from Full Fact on raising the bar of honesty in Parliament and the corrections process.
There is a crisis of honesty in British politics.
Full Fact research shows that 71% of Britons believe there was more lying and misuse of facts in politics and media than 30 years ago. Lack of faith in politics is now a top 10 concern for the public in the monthly Ipsos Issues Index. A year ago this was not so.
At Full Fact we know from experience that MPs are more honest than prevailing perceptions, but the actions of a few are damaging the reputations of all MPs and parties.
Full Fact proposed changes to the corrections process that could have avoided some of this problem long before this issue reached such a high level of public concern. I would like to set this out in summary for you.
The crisis of honesty in politics goes further than the current news cycle of whether the Prime Minister misled Parliament on attending parties in Downing Street during the pandemic.
Between November 2021 and April 2022, the Prime Minister has repeated inaccurate statements to the House of Commons by saying that employment is going up when it is going down. We, the UK Statistics Authority, and the Liaison Committee have all challenged this. He has acknowledged that what he has said is not true. But he has now said it at least nine times. We are yet to receive a conclusive response to any of our letters, and the Prime Minister has still not corrected the record.
The Leader of the Opposition has also made an inaccurate claim, in a speech to launching Labour’s local election campaign and on Twitter, to say families would be an average of £2,620 worse off this year under the Conservatives. This is not correct. It is calculated using flawed assumptions and does not appear to consider any rises in wages or benefits. This has been repeated by other senior MPs in various media outlets. Full Fact has asked Labour four times to share details of how the figure of £2,620 was calculated. As it stands we have had no response.*
These inaccuracies remaining uncorrected is only part of the problem. Currently, there is no way for an MP who is not a government Minister to correct the official record when they make a mistake in the House of Commons.
There are lots of examples where MPs respond positively to correction requests by Full Fact. But this cannot be done officially on the record.
Earlier this month, Full Fact launched our Honesty in Politics campaign with a petition calling on all MPs to fix Parliament’s corrections system as a first step to rebuilding trust in politics. Already more than 18,000 people have signed this appeal for politicians to admit publicly when they get things wrong, and along with all MPs, to agree new rules to make it easy to correct mistakes and stop politicians from misleading Parliament.
Full Fact is calling on MPs to urge Parliamentary bodies, including the Procedure Committee, to introduce a new system that will allow all MPs to easily correct the record when they mispeak. Such a system already exists in the Scottish Parliament.
To help MPs with this, we have set out a simple five-step process for upholding standards when an MP persistently fails to correct the record after making inaccurate statements, based on the existing processes of the House:
- When an MP believes another MP may have made an error, they can ask the House of Commons Library to assess the issue.
- If analysis confirms there was an error, the MP should raise that with the MP who made the statement and ask them to correct the record.
- If the MP who made the statement fails to correct the record and is a Minister, an MP may ask the Speaker to authorise a debate or an UQ.
- If the Speaker becomes aware of an MP repeatedly failing to correct the record when required, the Speaker alone should be given the power to refer this to the Commissioner for Standards for investigation.
- If the Commissioner finds that an MP has persistently failed to correct the record, the Committee on Standards should be empowered to impose appropriate sanctions.
We believe this approach is balanced, impartial, and non-partisan, and perhaps the least the House of Commons should do to uphold its expectations of MPs, and government Ministers in particular.
*Since publishing our fact check, Labour has confirmed how it reached the £2,620 figure. But we have still not received a substantive response to the issues we raised about this calculation.