MPs will today be asked to back a Bill which will make lying in politics an offence. It is being brought forward by Plaid Cymru’s MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd Liz Saville Roberts and has had cross party support.
She will tell the Commons that MPs need to “defend democracy, serve the public, and protect the basic standards by which we should all live”, by supporting her Bill. The Plaid Cymru Bill would make it an offence for politicians to wilfully lie to the public. Arbitration would be carried out under the same procedures already used to determine whether a business or corporation has intentionally mis-sold or misled. Repeated offences would be sanctioned with a fine or, ultimately, disqualification from standing for election for up to 10 years.
She will use Parliament’s Ten-Minute Rule to introduce her Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill. It would cover MPs and members of the Welsh Senedd, Stormont Assembly and Scottish Parliament, as well as Police and Crime Commissioners and elected mayors, who could all be convicted of making “false or misleading statements” but not councillors.
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Ms Saville Roberts told the Mirror: “Boris Johnson is a world-beating liar – we all know it, yet our political system is incapable of holding him to account for it.” She highlighted Partygate, misleading the Queen into proroguing Parliament in 2019 and what she dubbed the “infamous lie that Brexit would lead to £350million extra a week for the NHS” as untruths from the PM. “These examples are all unquestionable lies that can be disproven and challenged,” she said.
A poll undertaken by Opinium for thinktank Compassion in Politics found people are concerned about the lack of honesty in UK politics, with 53% citing dishonesty from politicians as a concern, and 63% wanting to see more honesty in politics. The same poll found that 73% of people support this Bill including 71% of Conservative voters and 79% of Labour supporters.
Ms Saville Roberts said: “Each day now brings with it more deception, dishonesty, and duplicity from the highest levels of government. Lies have been told to win elections, spread hate, and evade scrutiny. The consequence has been the withering away of public faith in democracy and the trashing of common values: according to a survey by the think-tank Compassion in Politics the number one value that voters believe is absent in our politics is that of honesty.
“Our choice as their representatives is either to obfuscate rambunctiously while faith in democracy crumbles or act in the name of those we are meant to serve. That is why today I will bring before parliament a Bill that, if passed, would make it an offense for politicians wilfully to lie to the public.
“No institution is indelible, no power irrevocable. Systems and structures that were once seen as immortal have perished and been forgotten. We cannot allow our parliamentary democracy – and the values on which it is built – to go the same way. Honesty is not only the best policy – it is essential to the creation of policy. Many people in public life are concerned by the state of our politics. Many have spoken out – although others have been silent till now. That doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do next. It’s time to work together, cross-party, to defend democracy, serve the public, and protect the basic standards by which we should all live.” TO get more stories like this straight to your inbox, subscribe to our Wales Matters daily newsletter here.
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