Petition to make lying in parliament a criminal offence passes threshold to be debated by MPs

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Campaigns say that lying in parliament should be a specific crime, like perjury for lying in a court of law

A petition to make lying in parliament a criminal offence has hit the 100,000 signatures required to prompt a debate in parliament.

The petition was partly inspired by a viral video by lawyer and activist Peter Stefanovic which catalogues a number of lies told by Boris Johnson in parliament.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • A petition on the government’s official e-petition website which calls for lying in parliament to become a criminal offence has passed the 100,000 signature mark, meaning it will likely be debated by MPs
  • The petition claims that “MPs, including Ministers” should face “serious penalty for knowingly making false statements in the House of Commons”
  • At 10,000 signatures, the government had to issue a response to the petition, in which it said that the government “does not intend to introduce legislation on this matter”
  • A video by campaigner and lawyer Peter Stefanovic which catalogues a number of false or misleading statements made by Boris Johnson as prime minister has received more than 30m views on social media  
  • The petition comes a month after Labour MP for Brent Dawn Butler was ejected from the commons after she accused the prime minister of lying in parliament, referencing Stefanovic’s video 

What’s been said?

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.”

A mandatory response given by the government once the petition reached 10,000 signatures states: “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.

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“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.

“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.”

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