At 5pm on Tuesday, a session took place in the House of Commons that had not been included in the list of debates due to take place in the plan for the day. The list of debates are all indicated in yesterdays blog. However the unexpected element was entitled Easter Recess: Government Update and it began with a speech by Boris Johnson about one of his activities during COVID that on the 12th of April this year he received a fixed penalty from the Metropolitan Police as indeed was the Chancellor. According to the Governments Ministerial Code, this is one of the elements that should be adopted “The Ministerial Code should be read against the background of the overarching duty on Ministers to comply with the law and to protect the integrity of public life.” This therefore requires all of the Government team and for the Prime Minister to do what his law was calling for.
The text from Johnsons starting point yesterday is shown underneath these three questions and the answers that took place during the debate. At the beginning of the discussion each political party was given a chance to ask questions and they were each introduced in order of the parties but the Conservatives which is the largest group had dropped out well before these three questions. Here are three questions from Labour MPs. There are many other elements that can be seen in the session which is available here. Indeed there will be more covered in the next few days in the blog.
Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister think that he broke the law?
The Prime Minister: I completely accept that the police are right, and that is why I have paid the fine.
Florence Eshalomi (Vauxhall) (Lab/Co-op): At every stage the Prime Minister has given the House and the public a different account or version of what happened until more revelations forced him to change his mind. The Prime Minister has outlined that he is sorry, and he should be sorry, because he almost died from this disease—and the staff at St Thomas’ Hospital in my constituency who treated him did not have a party for nine minutes. Does the Prime Minister not understand that he is a distraction? Constituents write to me about issues such as the cost of living and the crisis in Ukraine; will the Prime Minister do the decent thing and end this distraction by resigning?
The Prime Minister: The best and most decent thing we can all do is help our constituents with the issues that matter most to them, and the hon. Lady mentions the No. 1 and No. 2 issues.
Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Trust and confidence in our democracy is at an all-time low. Does the Prime Minister accept his part in that lack of confidence and trust? Should we not put the ministerial code on a statutory footing, and have it underpinned by the Nolan principles, in the same way that it is in the devolved Governments?
The Prime Minister: I repeat what I said earlier: there could not be a clearer expression of the robustness of our democracy than that all of us must be held to account. I have been held to account, and I apologise very sincerely.
So here is the opening statement from Boris Johnson
Let me begin in all humility by saying that on 12 April, I received a fixed penalty notice relating to an event in Downing Street on 19 June 2020. I paid the fine immediately and I offered the British people a full apology, and I take this opportunity, on the first available sitting day, to repeat my wholehearted apology to the House. As soon as I received the notice, I acknowledged the hurt and the anger, and I said that people had a right to expect better of their Prime Minister, and I repeat that again in the House now.
Let me also say—not by way of mitigation or excuse, but purely because it explains my previous words in this House—that it did not occur to me, then or subsequently, that a gathering in the Cabinet Room just before a vital meeting on covid strategy could amount to a breach of the rules. I repeat: that was my mistake and I apologise for it unreservedly. I respect the outcome of the police’s investigation, which is still under way. I can only say that I will respect their decision making and always take the appropriate steps. As the House will know, I have already taken significant steps to change the way things work in No. 10.
It is precisely because I know that so many people are angry and disappointed that I feel an even greater sense of obligation to deliver on the priorities of the British people.