My letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons on the Universal Credit lies

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Yet again UK government ministers, having painted themselves into a corner, have tried to manoeuvre out of trouble by misleading other MPs and the general public.

Readers of this blog – and its writer – were disgusted (although not surprised) to hear Iain Duncan Smith protesting innocence on behalf of his absent employment minister, Esther McVey, in a statement and short debate on Universal Credit in the House of Commons yesterday (July 9).

We have all endured too much of this. It is time honesty – or at least, more of it than is currently evident – returned to the corridors of power.

With this in mind – in hope more than expectation – I have written to John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, to request action. He chairs debates; it seems likely that he should be the one who puts and end to dishonest practices. The letter runs as follows:

It may have been inappropriate for Chris Bryant MP to make an accusation of deliberate deception against a group of ministers during the debate on Universal Credit, but in my opinion he would have been correct if he had done so.

We know that the Employment Minister, Esther McVey, told Parliament on June 30 that the Department for Work and Pensions’ business case for Universal Credit had been approved by the Treasury; we know that Sir Bob Kerslake said on Monday that the business case has not been signed off; and yesterday we heard from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that the Treasury has only been signing off on annual budgets.

There is a significant difference between a business case and an annual budget. It would stretch credulity too far to ask the British people to accept that the Employment Minister, the Secretary of State, the head of the Civil Service or anybody in the Treasury cannot tell the difference.

Therefore we must conclude that at least one member of the government has lied to Parliament and to the public. Since the Employment Minister’s statement referred to a comment by the Secretary of State on December 5, in which I am reliably informed that he did not say the business case had been signed off, it seems likely that she is the culprit.

It is also possible, however, that she was misinformed by the Secretary of State himself. Logically, if the Employment Minister did not check Mr Duncan Smith’s speech in Hansard, then she must have asked him what he said. In that case, the Secretary of State has knowingly misled the Employment Minister, Parliament and the public.

You will be aware that it is possible for MPs to commit Contempt of Parliament, if “any act or omission … obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions… or … has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results”. An attempt to mislead the House regarding the status of a flagship policy such as Universal Credit must certainly qualify as such an offence.

Perhaps you are aware of the case of Nicholas Scott, a minister of state for social security in the John Major government of 1992-7, who ‘talked out’ a private members’ bill aiming to outlaw discrimination on grounds of disability. Asked if he had deliberately filibustered, he denied it – but was found to have misled Parliament.

The then-Prime Minister had previously given his word that any minister who knowingly misled his or her fellow MPs should be sacked. It is to his shame that he did not honour this promise.

MPs accused of contempt of Parliament may also be suspended or expelled.

I regret to say that this is the point at which my knowledge runs out – I do not know whether a member of the electorate may request the investigation and possible dismissal of a Member accused of misleading Parliament, or whether the request must come from another Member. Perhaps you could assist me in this respect.

At the very least, it would seem that if Mr Bryant or another Member raised an official complaint on grounds that one or more of the team at the Department for Work and Pensions has misled Parliament, an investigation would be in order. Perhaps – again – you could assist me with information on how this may be facilitated.

This seems an appropriate moment to explore Parliamentary procedures on contempt/misleading or lying to MPs, as Hansard is littered with incidents of such behaviour – not only by ministers of state but by Cabinet ministers including the Work and Pensions secretary, the Minister without Portfolio (Cabinet Office) (Mr Shapps), and indeed the Prime Minister himself.

I cannot speak for everybody but I do know that many members of the electorate are utterly sick of this behaviour and want it ended.

No Member was ever elected to Parliament in order to lie to us and an example should be made of those who do.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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30 thoughts on “My letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons on the Universal Credit lies

  1. Pingback: My letter to the Speaker of the House of Common...

  2. Tina Connor

    Well done Mike. Excellent letter to which I hope you get a reply. If the situation with UC wasn’t so serious it would be laughable.

  3. Jules Clarke

    You may wish to approach parliamentary standards committee and see how relevant it may be for a complaint to be raised in regards to a privy council member engaging in possible deceptive communication, or indeed look at ministerial code to see whether the PM is using said code correctly, with suspensions or dismissals should apology or correction not acceptably be made. That’s avenues I can think of. Alternately the direct briefing of your concerns to your MP, copying in leader of the house and speaker. This is all I can think of as feasible, there are probably lots of ways. This is my view only.

  4. Methusalada

    Hi Mike,
    I recognise that you are a competent campaigner on the Internet. I understand your concern’s as to the withholding of secret truth’s held by only a certain selective privileged few in Government & it’s various Civic offices . I myself have acquired reservations upon whom it is that you trust in order for you to become a sustained voice of truth. The speaker of the house of commons is only responsible to it’s own members in it’s own circus. I wish you well friend !

  5. Jodie April Mae

    A well argued case which would in the situation of a democratically elected principled administration be properly considered but witb this unconstitutional and undemocratic lot i doubt there will be any response to such legitimate grievances… Smith McVey Gove et al will ignore everything until taken out!!!!

  6. jeffrey davies

    I wonder after all that will this imp get away with it once again but good letter m very good

  7. Mr.Angry

    Good on you Mike, I do hope you get a response but very much doubt it,as they all say/ “We are all in this together” true meaning of corruption.

  8. kryten1974

    Brilliant as usual Mike. However, I thought about this myself, but wondered if a written answer technically constitutes ‘lying to the House’? I bet those slimy bastards will say it does not.

  9. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    Exasperated with Esther McLie’s spin and falsehoods to parliament, Mike has taken the step of writing to the speaker, John Bercow, requesting an investigation of her and her master, RTU, for ‘contempt of parliament’. I doubt he’ll be successful, but I wish him every success and look forward to seeing if ever gets a reply.

  10. Rupert Mitchell

    Congratulations on your excellent and forthright letter which I hope will bring forth an equally forthright response with accurate information. We employ a government to act openly and clearly and it is its duty to do so.

  11. fusr2

    correctio .. “absent employment minister, Esther McVey,” she was sat next to him … more like the brazen hard faced woaman she is….

    1. Mike Sivier

      I didn’t see the debate so I had to go by what Chris Bryant said, which seemed to indicate that she was not present in the chamber to answer for herself. If she really was there, then it is even more strange that RTU answered for her.

  12. department for deciept and sanctions

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  13. amnesiaclinic

    Reblogged this on amnesiaclinic and commented:
    Superb letter! Thanks. Agree with Jules – look at ministerial code and copy letter to MP’s, Leader of House etc etc. Eventually someone will take it up. Tom Watson, Frank Field????

  14. Sally Burgess

    Hear, hear Mike. Great letter, I’m looking forward to his response. I, too, have been furious when I’ve heard easily disproved lies from this government stated as fact in the HoC. I’ve also wondered why they are never challenged sufficiently on them but then we do have a dreadful right-wing media.

  15. His Exalted excellency supreme leader for life David Cameron

    Mike you don’t mind me calling you Mike do you? Just call me Dave.
    I have been advised of your letter to Sir Johnny in reference to my chief executioner lying. I have to point out he was relying on statistics and as you may have heard you can twist statistics to mean what you want. That is why I have decreed that all parliamentary information is classed as statistics. I have discussed this with my coalition underlings Sir Ed and Nicky and they both agree that what every I say is right and has their full support. It does make us chortle over our cigars , Krug and fois gras to hear that people are so out of touch with the public ethos thinking they live in a 21st century democracy. If all you political woke up and realised that we live in the 2nd century. We promiss to carryon harrying all you plebs as we see fit

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