Thank you for contacting me about lying in the House of Commons.
It is an important principle of the UK Parliament that Members of Parliament are accountable to those who elect them. It is absolutely right that all MPs are fully accountable to their constituents for what they say and do and this is ultimately reflected at the ballot box.
As I am sure you agree, freedom of speech in Parliament is an essential part of our democracy which is a right that enables Parliament to function freely and fully, ensuring that MPs are able to speak their minds in debates, and to represent their constituents’ views without fear or favour. Parliamentary privilege, which includes freedom of speech and the right of both Houses of Parliament to regulate their own affairs, grants certain legal immunities to Members of both Houses to allow them to perform their duties without outside interference.
Further, the Committee in Standards in Public Life has also identified seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. These principles are enshrined in the Code of Conduct, with Members expected to observe them at all times. In the event of non-compliance with the Code of Conduct, Members can expect to be investigated and, if necessary, disciplined by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Having taken this into consideration, the Government does not intend to introduce legislation to make lying in the House of Commons illegal. However, I am aware that a debate will be held on this subject and I look forward to this being considered in Parliament.
The Ministerial Code is clear about the importance of Ministers providing accurate and truthful information to Parliament. Ministers who inadvertently mislead Parliament should correct the record at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament are expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.
Responsibility for acting in accordance with the Ministerial Code lies with individual Ministers. When a breach of expected standards of behaviour occurs, the Prime Minister is the ultimate judge of the consequences for breaching those standards.
I understand your argument in favour of requiring Parliament to enforce the Code but I believe it is right that enforcement sits with the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister appoints the Executive and is accountable to the Sovereign for those appointments.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP