A Liars Charter that gives MPs a Green Light to Lie

Earlier this week it came to light that a false and misleading statement had been made by George Freeman MP concerning tariffs on food products imported into EU from Africa in a report by Full Fact (https://fullfact.org/economy/george-freeman-africa-eu-tariffs/)

Given that the Government response to the Parliamentary petition (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/561730 ) organised by Joel Baccas calling for MPs misleading the public to be made a criminal offence stated very clearly that such matters were for the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to deal with, we made a formal complaint to the Commissioner regarding the issue of Freeman’s statement.

Despite the fact that there is absolutely no doubt that the statement made by Freeman is factually inaccurate, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has refused to investigate the issue, and looking at the procedures statement for the Commissioner, the Commissioner’s decisions are final and there is no right of or procedure for appeal.

This news of course comes in a week when we have seen that it is not possible for an MP to call out another MP for lying in the chamber of the House of Commons itself. As we have seen in those circumstances the liar walks away and the MP calling out those lies is suspended.

Furthermore, the Standards Committee itself does not investigate complaints about MPs.

Overall, this means there is absolutely no way of holding an MP to account should they mislead the public or lie.

This is not acceptable, especially when you take into account that as we have seen, the ministerial code of conduct is also seriously flawed as the Prime Minister of the day has the final say which is a major problem when the holder of that office is a proven serial liar.

Whilst The Standards Committee itself does not investigate complaints against MPs, part of their role is to review the code of conduct for MPs and make recommendations for changes to it, and they also supervise the work of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.

They are therefore one group of people that we need to hold to account on this issue

Please contact them and tell them that the current system is effectively a liars charter as it gives MPs a green light to mislead the public and to lie, and that the system is unacceptable and needs to change.

Their e mail address is standards@parliament.uk

Press Regulation

Some mixed news relating to press regulation.

The good news is that our petition has passed the 10,000 mark meaning the government must now respond to it. Thank you to everyone who signed it

The not so good news is that I have received the following e mail relating to the complaint I made about the Express article entitled “Food shop alert as YOUR supermarket bill set to soar due to EU red tape”

Dear Dr Poole,

The Complaints Committee has considered your complaint, the email of 14th June 2021 from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code, and your email of 14th June 2021 requesting a review of the Executive’s decision. The Committee agreed the following decision:

The Committee noted that the headline incorporating the term “EU red tape” introduced the article, which at one point contrasted the UK Government’s position of unilaterally delaying the implementation of some of the border checks, with the EU’s recourse to legal action in order to enforce full implementation of the checks.

For this reason, and the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive, the Committee decided that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.

The Committee would like to thank you for giving it the opportunity to consider your concerns.

Best wishes,

This is very disappointing as it effectively allows the Express to falsely blame the price rises on the EU and shows that reform of how the press is regulated is desperately needed. We need a situation where regulation is carried out by individuals who are genuinely independent from the press and politics to ensure that newspapers like the Express cannot get away with what they are doing.

I will be challenging this outcome as soon as I have chance but we do need to continue to press for changes to the way the press is regulated which I would suggest we do in a number of ways.

Firstly, we should keep complaining about articles such as the one I refer to above published by the likes of the Express. This will make it clear to the likes of the Express and indeed IPSO that we are serious about the issue of fair and accurate reporting relating to the EU. Indeed I will be posting details of another Express article we should all complain about – just about the only good thing about IPSO is they do actually make it very easy to complain!

Secondly, we should put pressure on those that advertise in the likes of the Express asking them if they are happy for their organisation or brand to be promoted in publications that regularly mislead their readers and publish false information that is often of a nature that is offensive. We saw that this tactic can be effective with the recent launch of GB news when several leading brands pulled their advertising.

Thirdly, we should consider demonstrating outside the offices of publications such as the Express and the Mail, and indeed IPSO itself. Again, this will let them know we are watching what they do and that we are serious about putting a stop to it.

Fourthly we should press through political channels for the regulatory regime to be improved, indeed the petition starts this process. We should write to MPs about this, especially MPs we think would be sympathetic to the issue and attempt to place motions onto the agenda of party conferences.

We are of course open to other ideas so please do let us know if you have any.