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11 March 2021

Speaker issues slap down amid claims of Boris Johnson lying to MPs over Labour stance on NHS pay

11 March 2021

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has slapped down Boris Johnson after the Prime Minister faced claims of lying to MPs over Labour’s position on NHS funding.

The Speaker initially replied “you might be proved wrong” after transport minister Andrew Stephenson told MPs that the Prime Minister is “always right”.

Sir Lindsay later made a statement to MPs in the light of concerns related to Mr Johnson incorrectly claiming that Labour voted against an NHS funding package.

He insisted MPs “must take responsibility” for correcting the record if they make a mistake in the chamber, adding: “It is not dishonourable to make a mistake, but to seek to avoid admitting one is a different matter.”

All members should correct the record if they make an inaccurate statement to the House

Mr Johnson clashed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on Wednesday over proposals for a below-inflation pay rise for NHS workers in England.

Sir Keir said the original funding package had included a 2.1% increase rather than the 1% now recommended by ministers.

Mr Johnson twice claimed Labour voted against the settlement for the NHS – but the NHS Funding Act was approved without a vote in early 2020.

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth accused Mr Johnson of misleading MPs and later used a social media post to say Mr Johnson “lied at PMQs”.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton was repeatedly challenged over Mr Johnson’s comments but indicated he would neither apologise nor correct the record.

In a briefing for Westminster journalists, No 10 was asked around 20 questions on the issue and Mr Johnson’s approach to truthfulness.

Sir Lindsay, in his statement, told the Commons: “All members should correct the record if they make an inaccurate statement to the House.

Coronavirus – Mon Mar 8, 2021 (PA Wire)

“They can do so by raising a point of order or in debate or, in the case of ministers, they can make a statement or issue a written ministerial statement.

“The Government’s own ministerial code could not be clearer about what is expected of ministers. It says, ‘It is of paramount importance that ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity’.

“The Speaker cannot be dragged into arguments about whether a statement is inaccurate or not. This is a matter of political debate.

“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.

The honourable gentleman has been in this House long enough to know that the Prime Minister is always right

“I said when I was elected Speaker that we needed to treat each other and the electorate with respect.

“What I have talked about today is an important part of that and I hope all members will act in that spirit.”

Earlier in transport questions, minister Mr Stephenson was asked by Labour’s Grahame Morris (Easington) to correct the Prime Minister’s previous denial over Transport for the North suffering a 40% budget cut.

Mr Stephenson replied: “The honourable gentleman has been in this House long enough to know that the Prime Minister is always right.”

Sir Lindsay intervened and said: “You might be proved wrong.”

Mr Johnson claimed there had been “no such cut” to Transport for the North’s budget when challenged about it last month during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Board papers for the transport body, which aims to boost connectivity in the north of England, said core funding from the Government would drop from £10 million in 2020/21 to £6 million in 2021/22.

Mr Johnson had been asked by Labour former minister Dame Diana Johnson how the cut fitted with his plan for “levelling up” the North.

In January, shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon also accused Mr Johnson of “misleading” MPs by claiming his 200-day-old comments on quarantine measures were recent.

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