One month after Dawn Butler was ejected from Parliament for pointing out – rightly – that prime minister Boris Johnson has lied to MPs “time and time again”, this happens:
A petition calling for dishonesty within the Houses of Parliament to be made a criminal offence has reached the 100,000 signature threshold required for a debate in the House of Commons.
But will the Tory government – whose prime minister is the most prominent liar on the Green Benches – have the guts to host it?
The petition states: “The Government should introduce legislation to make lying in the House of Commons a criminal offence. This would mean that all MPs, including Ministers, would face a serious penalty for knowingly making false statements in the House of Commons, as is the case in a court of law.
“We believe false statements have been made in the House and, although regarded as a “serious offence” in principle, options to challenge this are extremely limited as accusing a member of lying is forbidden in the House.
“Truth in the House of Commons is every bit as important as truth in a court of law and breaches should be treated in a similar way to perjury and carry similar penalties.”
The government has already provided a response, which is mandatory after any petition passes 10,000 signatures: “The Government does not intend to introduce legislation of this nature. MPs must abide by the Code of Conduct and conduct in the Chamber is a matter for the Speaker.
“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.”
But MPs are elected only by voters in their constituency – and then go on to disgrace the entire country. We need a mechanism by which anybody – not just local electors – can hold MPs to account and the criminal law should be it. And how, exactly, do constituents hold their representatives accountable?
“Freedom of speech in Parliament is an essential part of our democracy. It 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.”
Nobody is denying MPs these rights, of course. But freedom of speech is not freedom to lie. And legal immunities do not stretch to immunity from telling the truth.
The simple fact is that, time and time again (as Ms Butler rightly put it), MPs including the prime minister have deliberately and knowingly lied to Parliament and the nation – and they have been allowed to get away with it by a weak regulatory system and a weaker Commons Speaker.
We, the people, require a means by which we may directly hold our representatives to account.
If the petition calling for legislation to install such a means is refused, then Parliament will be admitting that it is corrupt, and that its members should be denied permission to make laws governing the rest of us; they will be demonstrating that they rule for themselves, not the nation.
This Writer would urge you to write to your own MP, demanding they support the demands of the petition and seek the introduction of strong legislation during the next Parliamentary session, to hold all Parliamentarians to account for their lies.
Let’s see how they all try to squirm out of it.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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