Petition demands change to ‘broken’ parliament system that doesn’t allow MPs to correct misleading statements

The current system ‘operates as if honesty doesn’t matter’ with only ministers able to correct the record

Over 22,000 people have signed a petition to demand MPs agree on new rules that make it easier to correct mistakes in the House of Commons.

The petition, set up by Full Fact, a fact-checking organisation, is part of its ongoing Honesty in Politics Campaign asking parliamentarians to publicly acknowledge when they get things wrong, in an attempt to rebuild trust in politics.

The organisation is demanding that MPs fix a “broken” system that only allows ministers to correct the record, to stop “misleading claims and uphold accountability.”

It follows recent lies by the Prime Minister during the ‘Partygate’ scandal and research from the organisation revealing lack of faith in politics is a top 10 concern for the public.

We spoke to Full Fact to understand more about the petition, why it has been set up and the importance of politicians correcting their misleading statements in parliamentary debates.

What is the petition calling for?

Research by Full Fact shows that 71% of the population believe there is more lying and misuse of facts in politics and media than 30 years ago.

In the petition, the organisation is calling for changes to be made to the parliamentary process to enable all MPs to correct inaccuracies.

In the current system, created in 2007, ministers are allowed to correct the official report of parliamentary debates when they make an error when speaking but it does not extend to non-ministers.

A spokesperson for the campaign argues that the “vast majority of MPs have no official means by which to correct the record including shadow ministers and high profile MPs”.

“The rules around corrections do not even apply to the Leader of the Opposition, shadow cabinet or backbench MPs,” they add.

“Many MPs have made efforts to correct their mistakes in Parliament, usually through raising a Point of Order with the Speaker or in the course of another debate.

“But these methods are not the most efficient use of Parliament’s time, and mean that readers of the original debate in Hansard will not see the correction.”

The campaign likens the new system they are proposing to the one in the Scottish Parliament which was introduced in 2010 and allows all Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to put forward corrections to the official record when they misspeak.

‘MPs are there to lead us, not mislead us’

The campaign spokesperson told NationalWorld that the current political system needs to be changed because it “operates as if honesty doesn’t matter”.

They added that the changes would be “basic” simply because “MPs owe us the truth”.

Already more than 22,000 people have signed the petition.

They said: “What is said in Parliament should be the cornerstone of our democratic debate.

“Parliamentarians need to work together to agree on a straightforward system so that MPs’ mistakes can be corrected officially.”

They added: MPs must stop putting up with their peers misleading the House of Commons and in turn the public.

“The system is broken and in order to rebuild trust in our political system, change is needed.

“Correcting honest mistakes is not an admission of failure, and it’s up to our elected representatives to find a new mechanism for challenging misleading claims and upholding accountability.”

How many times have MPs lied in Parliament?

Since November 2021 the independent fact-checking charity has challenged at least 10 instances where Boris Johnson has incorrectly claimed in Parliament there were more people in work than prior to the pandemic.

They said: “The current PM continues to repeat this inaccurate employment claim, and is yet to correct the record, despite acknowledging his error, saying he ‘thinks’ he has taken steps to do so.”

The organisation shared how they wrote to Mr Johnson on 2 December 2021 and 7 January 2022 asking him to acknowledge these mistakes and officially correct the record - with similar letters penned by regulatory bodies including The Office for Statistics Regulation and the UK Statistics Authority.

The organisation also revealed that three previous Prime Ministers failed to correct the record following a false claim.

Full Fact said: “Out of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May, only Mr Cameron ever responded by correcting the official record.

“Prime Ministers’ failure to correct the record shows that the current corrections system is not fit to uphold standards of honesty in public life.”

Importance of ‘accuracy and self-correction’

In a response to a letter from Unlock Democracy, a pressure group promoting democratic reform, on current means to challenge statements made by Ministers, the chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley said: “The principles which underpin the practice and procedure of the House in this area are accuracy and self-correction.

“The Committee believes that these principles are the right ones, that Ministers must give accurate information to Parliament and correct the record when they have not.”