Chris Bryant Lays Into Parliament's Rules About Calling MPs Liars, Labelling It 'An Irony'

The Labour MP said there was an "irony" that other MPs were suspended for accusing Boris Johnson of lying.
Britain's Member of Parliament Chris Bryant speaks in the House of Commons.
Britain's Member of Parliament Chris Bryant speaks in the House of Commons.

Chris Bryant has called out the “irony” that parliament doesn’t allow MPs to call other MPs liars – even if the individual in question was later found to be lying.

At the moment, the Commons speaker or deputy speaker does not tolerate any MP calling a colleague a liar (or saying they’ve lied) while in the House, because it is against parliamentary etiquette.

So the Labour MP for Rhondda has called for the Commons rulebook to be updated – especially as Boris Johnson has since been found to have lied to parliament.

He told Times Radio on Thursday: “It is an irony, isn’t it, that Dawn Butler and Ian Blackford, who are two of the people who were suspended – effectively suspended – for a day, sent out of the chamber for calling Boris Johnson a liar, are in that list.

“And now they’re being joined by Boris Johnson because Boris Johnson, it has been decided by a very significant majority in the House of Commons, did lie to Parliament repeatedly and deliberately. Yes, I think that rule needs revision.”

Labour’s Dawn Butler claimed Johnson had “lied to the House and the country over and over again” in the Commons back in July 2021, when the UK was still in the midst of Covid restrictions.

Butler was speaking shortly before the partygate scandal emerged later that year, and were actually in relation to Johnson’s management of the pandemic.

She refused to withdraw the comment so she was suspended, although the MP has since said she hopes the parliamentary record will be corrected to prove what she said was “actually correct”.

Butler has also called the rules around calling out other MPs “nonsense”.

Speaking to The Independent in June, she said: “Johnson knew he was lying, we all knew he was lying. And he knew we knew he was lying.

“But the system protected him.”

Ian Blackford, then the SNP’s Westminster leader, was also ordered to leave the Commons in January 2022, after he refused to withdraw claims Johnson had “misled parliament” and was “lying”.

Unlike Butler, Blackford was speaking after Sue Gray’s report into partygate emerged.

The speaker of the House still kicked Blackford out of the Commons after he refused to withdraw his comments, saying instead: “It’s not my fault if the prime minister can’t be trusted to tell the truth.”

During his interview with Times Radio, released on Thursday, Bryant suggested that these two examples showed the problems with the parliamentary system.

He said: “You know that phrase, ‘one bad apple’?

"It doesn’t mean we’ve just got one bad apple, so we don’t need to worry about it. It means one bad apple spoils the barrel.

“And I think we’ve normalised lying and that is problematic.”

The Labour MP continued: “I think we should have a rule which says that if the UK Statistics Authority tells you to correct the record and you refuse to do it within 28 days or something, that is a breach of the code of conduct in the House of Commons and you’re out on your ear.”

However, Bryant did acknowledge that calling others liars shouldn’t happen “at every turn”.

He said: “Jacob Rees-Mogg regularly tells me when we do interviews together, just because you disagree with me, Chris, doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily lying.

“And I point out to him that just because you say you’re not lying doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not lying.”

He also called for a procedure which would allow backbenchers to be able to correct their own errors as easily as ministers who make mistakes in the Commons.


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