The speaker of the House of Commons has issued a strong rebuke to the government after details of the upcoming budget have been briefed to the media over the last few days.
Speaking before an urgent question on the matter put forward by Bridget Phillipson MP, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP said he was “disappointed” to see more reporting in the media after he’d previously expressed concerns.
What did the government do wrong?
The speaker has criticised the government in the past after details of forthcoming policy announcements have been reported in the media before being announced in Parliament.
Yesterday, following widespread reports of spending pledges for the NHS which will be included in the budget, the speaker said he “stated in the clearest possible terms that important announcements should be made by the government first in this house”.
It is a well-established protocol that significant announcements should be made to MPs before the media.
As the speaker pointed out, it is also stated in the ministerial code that “When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of government policy should be made in the first instance in this Parliament, this house”.
In 1947, Labour Chancellor Hugh Dalton resigned after he divulged details of his forthcoming budget to a reporter beforehand, which subsequently appeared in print prior to the budget announcement.
George Osbourne was previously criticised when details of his budget were published online by the London Evening Standard prior to their announcement in Parliament.
Osbourne would later go on to serve as editor of the publication, while still an elected MP.
What did the speaker say?
The speaker granted Labour’s request for an urgent question in Parliament about the details of the budget which have appeared in the media.
Prior to the question, he read a statement, which is reproduced in full below.
He said: “I’ve repeatedly stated in the clearest possible terms that important announcements should be made by the government first in this house rather than outside it.
“I did so today again yesterday in relation to the briefings issued to the media about the budget.
“I was disappointed therefore to see more stories in the media today with apparently very well briefed information about what will be in tomorrow’s budget.
“The government just doesn’t have to take my word for it, its own ministerial code says so.
“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of government policy should be made in the first instance in this parliament, this house.
“As I said yesterday I do not have to give a reason for my decisions about urgent questions applications, but in this case I want the house and especially the government to be clear if the government continues to treat this house in a discourteous manner I will do everything in my power to ensure ministers are called here at the earliest opportunity to explain themselves.
“I’ve personally nothing against the minister, I feel sorry for the person who has got to answer at the dispatch box.
“But once again this House will not be taken for granted, it is not right for everybody to be briefed, it’s not more important to go on the news in the morning, it’s more important to come here.
“Let’s get this message across, these are the elected members that represent this United Kingdom, it is not done through Sky TV.”