25 October 2021

Resignations should follow after pre-Budget briefings, Speaker suggests

25 October 2021

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested ministers should resign for briefing out details of the Budget in advance.

The Commons Speaker hit out after a weekend of announcements were made by the Treasury in advance of Wednesday’s statement from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

He alluded to the events of 1947 when Labour chancellor Hugh Dalton was forced to resign after leaking key parts of his statement to a reporter.

Sir Lindsay added Dame Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Speaker who oversees the Budget proceedings, was “also very upset” by the briefings.

He granted an urgent question on the Chancellor’s plan to commit a further £5.9 billion in capital funding to the NHS to help it respond to the crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic.

It has not been uncommon in recent years for announcements contained in a budget to be briefed ahead of the statement to Parliament.

But Sir Lindsay has repeatedly expressed his frustration at Boris Johnson’s administration for not giving details to MPs in the Commons first.

He said he will continue to force ministers to appear before MPs if they keep briefing the media ahead of Parliament.

The Speaker added: “At one time ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a Budget – they walked.”

Shouts of “resign” could be heard, with Sir Lindsay adding: “Yes absolutely, resign. It seems to me we’ve got ourselves in a position that if you’ve not got it out five days before it’s not worth putting out.

“I’ve got to say, members are elected to this House to represent their constituents, those constituents quite rightly expect the MP to hear it first in order to be able to listen to what the Budget is about, but also for the days following that to be able to hold them to account.

We will always seek to ensure arrangements are made so Parliament is informed and that we reach the public at the same time

“It’s not acceptable and the Government shouldn’t try to run roughshod over this House, it will not happen.”

For Labour, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said chancellors used to go into purdah before a budget and “perhaps that tradition needs to return”.

Conservative Peter Bone (Wellingborough) also suggested the Treasury should at the very least provide MPs with copies of the embargoed press releases.

Health minister Edward Argar replied: “I suspect what he’s just said, just as what Mr Speaker has just said, has been heard loud and clear both in the Department of Health and across Government including in the Treasury.”

Downing Street defended the Chancellor’s handling of pre-Budget announcements.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We recognise the importance of keeping Parliament and the public informed when decisions are taken, as the Government has endeavoured to do throughout the pandemic.

“We will always seek to ensure arrangements are made so Parliament is informed and that we reach the public at the same time.

“Obviously the Chancellor will make his full Budget statement to the House as expected on Wednesday.”

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