– in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 19th April 2022.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the Government’s response to events at home and abroad during the Easter recess.
I will come to Ukraine in a moment, since I have just left a virtual meeting with President Biden, President Macron, Chancellor Scholz and eight other world leaders, but let me begin in all humility by saying that on
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 and to respond in the best traditions of our country to Putin’s barbaric onslaught against Ukraine. Our Ukrainian friends are fighting for the life of their nation, and they achieved the greatest feat of arms of the 21st century by repelling the Russian assault on Kyiv. The whole House will share my admiration for their heroism and courage.
Putin arrogantly assumed that he would capture Kyiv in a matter of days, and now the blackened carcases of his tanks and heavy armour litter the approaches to the capital on both banks of the Dnieper and are smouldering monuments to his failure. Having pulverised the invader’s armoured spearheads, the Ukrainians then counter-attacked. By
I travelled to Kyiv myself on
But the urgency is even greater now because Putin has regrouped his forces and launched a new offensive in the Donbas. We knew that this danger would come. When I welcomed President Duda of Poland to Downing Street on
Just as our foreign policy must look to the long term, the same is true of this Government’s domestic priorities. As we face the economic aftershocks of covid and the consequences of Russian aggression, that is above all about tackling the impact on British energy prices, on consumers and on family bills. That is why we are spending over £9 billion to help families struggling with their bills and we are helping families to insulate their homes and reduce costs. To end our dependence on Putin’s oil and gas and to ensure that energy is cheaper in the long term, we published on
This Government are joining with our allies to face down Putin’s aggression abroad while addressing the toughest problems at home, helping millions of families with the cost of living, making our streets safer and funding the NHS to clear the covid backlog. My job is to work every day to make the British people safer, more secure and more prosperous, and that is what I will continue to do. I commend this statement to the House.
What a joke!
Even now, as the latest mealy-mouthed apology stumbles out of one side of the Prime Minister’s mouth, a new set of deflections and distortions pours from the other. But the damage is already done. The public have made up their minds. They do not believe a word that the Prime Minister says. They know what he is.
As ever with this Prime Minister, those close to him find themselves ruined and the institutions that he vows to protect damaged: good Ministers forced to walk away from public service; the Chancellor’s career up in flames; the leader of the Scottish Conservatives rendered pathetic. Let me say to all those unfamiliar with this Prime Minister’s career that this is not some fixable glitch in the system; it is the whole point. It is what he does. It is who he is. He knows he is dishonest and incapable of changing, so he drags everybody else down with him. [Interruption.] The more people debase themselves, parroting—[Interruption.]
Order. I cannot hear what is being said because there is so much noise. [Interruption.] Mr Fabricant, I am all right.
Order. What I will say is that I think the Leader of the Opposition used the word “dishonest”, and I do not consider that appropriate. [Hon. Members: “Breaking the rules!”] We do not want to talk about breaking rules, do we? I do not think this is a good time to discuss that.
I am sure that if the Leader of the Opposition withdraws that word and works around it, he will be able—given the knowledge he has gained over many, many years—to use appropriate words that are in keeping with the good, temperate language of this House.
I respect that ruling from the Chair, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister knows what he is. As I was saying, he drags everyone else down with him. The more people debase themselves, parroting his absurd defences, the more the public will believe that all politicians are the same, all as bad as each other—and that suits this Prime Minister just fine.
Some Conservative Members seem oblivious to the Prime Minister’s game. Some know what he is up to but are too weak to act, while others are gleefully playing the part that the Prime Minister cast for them. A Minister said on the radio this morning, “It is the same as a speeding ticket.” No, it is not. No one has ever broken down in tears because they could not drive faster than 20 miles an hour outside a school. Do not insult the public with this nonsense!
As it happens, however, the last Minister who got a speeding ticket, and then lied about it, ended up in prison. I know, because I prosecuted him.
Last week, we were treated to a grotesque spectacle: one of the Prime Minister’s loyal supporters accusing teachers and nurses of drinking in the staff room during lockdown. Conservative Members can associate themselves with that if they want, but those of us who take pride in our NHS workers, our teachers, and every other key worker who got us through those dark days will never forget their contempt.
Plenty of people did not agree with every rule that the Prime Minister wrote, but they followed them none the less, because in this country we respect others. We put the greater good above narrow self-interest, and we understand that the rules apply to all of us. This morning I spoke to John Robinson, a constituent of Michael Fabricant, and I want to tell the House his story.
When his wife died of covid, John and his family obeyed the Prime Minister’s rules. He did not see her in hospital; he did not hold her hand as she died. Their daughters and grandchildren drove 100 miles up the motorway, clutching a letter from the funeral director in case they were questioned by the police. They did not have a service in church, and John’s son-in-law stayed away because he would have been the forbidden seventh mourner. Does the Prime Minister not realise that John would have given the world to hold his dying wife’s hand, even if it was just for nine minutes? But he did not, because he followed the Prime Minister’s rules—rules that we now know the Prime Minister blithely, repeatedly and deliberately ignored. After months of insulting excuses, today’s half-hearted apology will never be enough for John Robinson. If the Prime Minister had any respect for John, and the millions like him who sacrificed everything to follow the rules, he would resign. But he will not, because he does not respect John, and he does not respect the sacrifice of the British public. He is a man without shame.
Looking past the hon. Member for Lichfield and the nodding dogs in the Cabinet, there are many decent hon. Members on the Conservative Benches who do respect John Robinson and do respect the British public. They know the damage that the Prime Minister is doing; they know that things cannot go on as they are; and they know that it is their responsibility to bring an end to this shameful chapter. Today I urge them once again not to follow in the slipstream of an out-of-touch, out-of-control Prime Minister. I urge them to put their conscience, their country and John Robinson first; to remove the Prime Minister from office; to bring decency, honesty and integrity back into our politics; and to stop the denigration of everything that this country stands for.
I apologise once again, profusely, to John Robinson, to all of those who lost loved ones, and particularly to those who suffered during the pandemic. In my statement, I have tried to explain why I spoke to the House as I did. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has chosen to respond with a series of personal attacks on me, and I understand why he does that. I understand that, but I think it would have been a good thing if, in the course of his remarks, he had addressed some of the issues that I mentioned, not least the crisis in Ukraine, with the impact that that is having on the livelihoods of everybody in this country. In order to address that, the Government will get on with our job, which is to focus on the needs of the British people.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks about nodding dogs. I remind the House that there was a certain nodding dog, who sat nodding in the previous Labour shadow Cabinet, who would happily have installed Jeremy Corbyn, and made a disastrous mistake for the security of our country at a very difficult time. This Government will get on with the difficult job of taking us through the aftershocks of the covid pandemic, and of leading not just this country but the world in our response to the violence that we are seeing in Ukraine. I renew my apologies. I renew my apologies to John Robinson and to families up and down the land, but I think the best thing that we can do now for this country, as politicians, is not to indulge in personal abuse of the kind we have heard, but to get on with our jobs.
I have heard the remarks of both my right hon. Friend and the Leader of the Opposition, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates that it is crystal clear that a fixed penalty notice, such as was applied in his case, is a civil penalty fine, which, if paid within 28 days, eliminates the possibility of future prosecution in the criminal courts and, furthermore, can be paid without any admission of guilt. The judgment in a recent Court of Appeal criminal case said that if the payment is made within 28 days, a fixed penalty notice is held not to be a conviction, as the defendant is
“not admitting any offence, not admitting any criminality, and would not have any stain imputed to his character.”
That is the perspective on this case.
I make it absolutely clear that in no way do I minimise the importance of this fine. I am heartily sorry for my mistake, and I accept completely the decision of the police.
I call the leader of the SNP, Ian Blackford.
Let us remind ourselves that, on
YouGov polling shows that 75% of the British public, and 82% of people in Scotland, have made up their mind on the Prime Minister. The public know the difference between the truth and lying, and they know that the Prime Minister is apologising for one reason, and one reason only, and it is the only reason he ever apologises: because he has been caught. After months of denials, his excuses have finally run out of road, and so must his time in office. The Prime Minister has broken the very laws he wrote. His trying to argue that he did not know that he had broken his own laws would be laughable if it were not so serious. Prime Minister, you cannot hide behind advisers. He knows, we know and the dogs in the street know that the Prime Minister has broken the law. This is the first Prime Minister to be officially found to have broken the law in office—a lawbreaking Prime Minister. Just dwell on that: a Prime Minister who has broken the law and who remains under investigation for additional lawbreaking—not just a lawbreaker but a serial offender. If he has any decency, any dignity, he would not just apologise but resign.
The scale and the seriousness of the issues we all now face demand effective leadership from a Prime Minister who can be trusted. The Tory cost of living crisis and the war crimes being inflicted on the Ukrainian people need our full focus. In a time of crisis, the very least the public deserve is a Prime Minister they can trust to tell the truth. For this Prime Minister, that trust is broken and can never be fixed. The truth is that a majority of people across these islands will never against trust a single word he says.
The questions today are not so much for a Prime Minister desperately clinging on to power. The real question is for Tory Back Benchers: will they finally grow a spine and remove this person from office? Or is the Tory strategy about standing behind a Prime Minister whom the public cannot trust with the truth?
I direct the right hon. Gentleman to what I said earlier, when I apologised profusely for my mistake and for what I got wrong. I repeat that.
The right hon. Gentleman asks whether this Government are capable of providing effective leadership, during the current crisis, in standing up to Russia, and I remind him that it is still the policy of the Scottish National party to dispense with this country’s independent nuclear deterrent at a particularly crucial time. I do not think that is what this country needs right now.
Many of my constituents are angry about breaches that happened two years ago, and I welcome the Prime Minister’s recognition of that and his apology, but does he agree that we face the gravest crisis in our global security for a long time, and it is essential that we remain focused on beating Putin and stopping the aggression against Ukraine? Can he say what additional measures we can take for Ukraine, following his discussion with President Biden and others, to ensure that Putin’s aggression is not allowed to succeed?
I thank my right hon. Friend, and I repeat my apology and my contrition, but I want to say that the war in Ukraine is at a very perilous stage, and it is vital that we do not allow Putin to gain momentum in the Donbas, as he well could, and in the east. That is why we are stepping up our supply of military hardware, of a kind that I think the Ukrainians particularly need now. This will become an artillery conflict, and they need support with more artillery. That is what we will be giving them, in addition to many other forms of support.
I see that the Prime Minister is anxious to move on to other issues, but the question is: can he do that? Let me take one example. Can he explain to me, the House and the country how he can credibly justify calling for the resignation of the boss of P&O Ferries when he faced allegations that he broke the law, while refusing to resign when he himself is guilty of actually the breaking the law that he set?
I thank the right hon. Lady very much, and I think that what P&O Ferries did was entirely wrong, as I have told the House before. I made a serious mistake, and I apologise for it very sincerely.
I strongly support the Government’s actions in standing up to Putin’s aggression, and helping Ukraine defend itself and our values. It is exactly at times such as this that our country needs a Prime Minister who exemplifies those values. I regret to say that we have a Prime Minister who broke the laws that he told the country it had to follow, who has not been straightforward about it, and who is now going to ask the decent men and women on the Conservative Benches to defend what I think is indefensible. I am very sorry to have to say this, but I no longer think he is worthy of the great office he holds.
I must say to my right hon. Friend that I know the care and sincerity with which he weighs his words, and I bitterly regret what has happened and the event in Downing Street, as I have said, but I do believe it is the job of this Government to get on with the priorities of the British people, and that is what we are going to do.
A poll over the weekend asked 2,000 people what they think of the Prime Minister. The most common word they used, by far, was “liar”. Does the Prime Minister understand how profoundly damaging it is to our great country to have a Government led by a man the public no longer trust and no longer have confidence in? If the Prime Minister will not resign, will he at least give Conservative MPs a free vote on Thursday, so that they can decide for themselves whether the Prime Minister deliberately misled Parliament, or was just so incompetent that he did not even understand his own laws?
I repeat what I have said earlier. I disagree profoundly with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said, but I repeat my apology to the House and to the country.
The people of Rossendale and Darwen will have weighed the words of the Prime Minister carefully today and will, like me, feel that it is a contrite and wholehearted apology. They will also be looking at the action of the Prime Minister in Ukraine. Will he consider putting Britain at the forefront of a new Marshall plan to rebuild Ukraine after Putin has been defeated, and fund this, in part, from the assets that the British state has confiscated from Russian oligarchs?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent suggestion, which is one that the UK Government are already pursuing. In my conversations with President Zelensky, we discussed exactly how the supporters and friends of Ukraine around the world can help to rebuild that beautiful country when the conflict is over.
We have always known that the Prime Minister was only ever sorry because he was caught bang to rights. This latest spin about the Met having it wrong is designed to bully the Met and provide cover to his Back Benchers who do not have the bottle to sack him, but the country has already concluded that he is either a liar or an idiot—
Order. I said we want temperate language. We have the motion on Thursday. That is a different matter. For today, we are not using language like that.
I withdraw the word “liar”, Mr Speaker, but the electorate will have already decided. Everybody knows that the Prime Minister is a lawbreaker. If the Met has got the wrong end of the stick, why does he not challenge the penalties before the criminal courts and have his day in court?
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much. I repeat what I said in my statement earlier, which is that I fully respect the decision of the police.
Does my right hon. Friend have the power to authorise Sue Gray to publish her report in full? If so, will he use that power to put an end to this matter, so that we do not get diverted —as we are being—from such crucial questions as the supply of armaments to Ukrainian democrats?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much, but I think it very important that the Met should conclude its investigation before Sue Gray’s final report.
Today marks the Prime Minister’s 1,000th day in office, but it takes a particular type of Prime Minister to rack up as many catastrophic failures, scandals and U-turns as days on the job—from the Tory-made cost of living crisis to dodgy covid contracts for his cronies, unlawfully proroguing Parliament and now breaking the law. Enough is enough. So will the Prime Minister confirm whether this 1,000th day will be his last?
I might add to the hon. Lady’s list fixing social care when Labour did absolutely nothing, rolling out the fastest vaccine programme anywhere in Europe and thereby accomplishing the fastest economic growth in the G7, and leading the world in standing up to Putin.
I appreciate the Prime Minister coming here today and taking full responsibility and apologising. It is clear that President Zelensky has repeatedly identified the Prime Minister as Ukraine’s greatest ally. He has also been identified, I think, by President Putin as enemy No. 1. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is not a bad accolade to have? Does he also agree that months of psychodrama in this place will play into the hands of the latter, not the former?
It is very important that the people in this country should understand that, although the country is faced with massive issues that we have to deal with, in the aftershocks of covid and the war in Ukraine, I in no way minimise the importance of the fine I have received and I apologise wholeheartedly.
People across the House will agree that the situation in Ukraine is serious, and there is no doubt that we fully support what we are trying to do. However, setting that aside for a minute, the Prime Minister stands before us today as the first resident of No. 10 to be found guilty of breaking the law while serving in public office. While he has finally apologised today, it has been accompanied by the absurd caveat that the man who set the rules could not understand them. Will the Prime Minister concede that remaining in office deals a grievous blow to the rule of law in this country and, for the first time in his career, will he put the national interest before his personal ambition and resign?
I repeat my apology and direct the hon. Gentleman to what I said earlier. The people of this country need us to focus on their issues and their priorities, and that is what the Government are going to do.
I thank the Prime Minister for his update on the energy security strategy, in particular the support offered for steel. It is the latest in a long line of support that he has brought forward, and it also sets out plans for wind, solar and nuclear. Does he agree that the best possible place to make the steel needed for those projects is right here in the UK?
Yes, my hon. Friend is completely right. That is why our energy security strategy is vital not just for consumers, but for British industry.
A new poll shows that three quarters of the public think the Prime Minister deliberately lied about breaking lockdown rules, yet on Thursday the Prime Minister will order his MPs to stop his lawbreaking ever coming before the Privileges Committee. If the Prime Minister has nothing to hide, why not do the straightforward thing and refer himself to the Privileges Committee? What is he scared of?
I thank the Prime Minister for coming to the House at the earliest opportunity to update us on the situation. Following your announcement, Mr Speaker, this House will have to decide on Thursday whether to refer the Prime Minister to the Privileges Committee. There is only one issue—whether the Prime Minister deliberately misled the House—so I ask him: did you deliberately mislead the House at the Dispatch Box?
Prime Minister, millions of angry people across the United Kingdom will remain angry, even after today’s apology, because of what they have gone through, but any objective listener will recognise that, for whatever reason, the apology was genuine. And I remind the Prime Minister that hundreds of thousands of Unionists in Northern Ireland are angry about other things as well. However, it is important to focus on the future, rather than the past.
The Prime Minister said that he discussed the situation in Ukraine with world leaders today. That situation is becoming desperate. What discussions has he had about giving Ukrainian forces the appropriate weaponry so that they can drive back the Russians, liberate their country and avoid all the consequences for our economy, oil, and food for the rest of the world?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the UK is in continual discussion with the Ukrainians about what we can do to help them to defend themselves. A lot has gone there, a lot more will be going, and I pay tribute to a particular Northern Ireland business—Short Brothers, which is now Thales—that has been absolutely indispensable in helping the Ukrainians against Russian armour.
The Government and the British people have provided extensive support to Ukrainian refugees, but around 200 British Council contractors remain in Afghanistan, many of whom are fleeing the Taliban. I am awaiting a meeting with the Refugees Minister that was promised back in November, so will the Prime Minister use his good offices to speed that meeting along?
Yes, of course. Those 200 contractors for the British Council should, I believe, automatically be eligible and certainly should be able to come under the scheme we have put in place, but I will ensure that my hon. Friend gets the meeting he wants.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, I found it difficult this Easter to have any faith, seeing the barbarity meted out to the people of Ukraine: women tortured and raped, their children tortured and raped, and their menfolk, in many cases, with hands tied and then shot in the back of the head. All those things we know to be war crimes, but many of the worst atrocities are being committed by sociopaths working as mercenaries—paid for by the Russian Government and the Russian state, but none the less working as mercenaries. The UK still is not a signatory to the convention on mercenaries. Is it not time we put a stop to this terrible barbarity, not just in Ukraine, but in other places in the world where mercenaries from the Wagner Group operate with sociopathic intent?
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much. I will study his proposal on mercenaries. He has been right for a long time on Russia, and he has been vindicated.
I have heard the fulsome apology by the Prime Minister, but he is taking a lead in Ukraine and I suggest he needs to keep giving Ukraine defensive weapons so that we can eventually drag President Putin and the Russian Federation to a peace agreement. Will he then lead the world in gaining reparations so that the great country of Ukraine can be rebuilt?
I thank my hon. Friend for his staunch position on Ukraine. He is completely right. I am afraid there is now no easy way to find a diplomatic or negotiated solution; I know the House would have preferred that, but it will be difficult to construct an off-ramp for Vladimir Putin. We are now in a logic where we must simply do everything we can collectively to ensure that Vladimir Putin fails, and fails comprehensively, in Ukraine.
The majority of my constituents are “sickened and furious” that the Prime Minister broke the laws that they followed, putting their lives on hold, missing out on big life events and even losing the chance to say goodbye to loved ones, in order to protect the NHS and save lives. Does the Prime Minister agree with my constituent Robert, who believes that lawbreakers should not be lawmakers?
I apologise profusely again, particularly to all those who lost loved ones. I know how painful it has been. However, I repeat what I have said: I believe the job of the Government now is to get on with delivering on the priorities of the country at a difficult time.
I know the Prime Minister has offered his wholehearted apology for the fixed penalty notice he received, which I welcome, but I encourage him not to take any lectures from the Labour party, bearing in mind the number of FPNs their previous Cabinet received—and yes, speed does kill—or, on this occasion, the FPNs that the Labour party and the SNP did not receive. Does he agree that everybody should be equal under the law?
Of course I agree with that, but let us be frank: the issue here today is what I did and what I got wrong, and I renew my apologies.
The Prime Minister accepted the Health Secretary’s resignation for breaking covid guidance, not covid laws. The Prime Minister then accepted Allegra Stratton’s resignation for joking that the parties that were so frequent in Downing Street were a business event. He is now using her joke as his defence. Why is he holding himself to lower standards than the people whose resignations he accepted?
All I can say is that I apologise for what I got wrong. I have explained to the House why I spoke in the House as I did, and what I want to do is get on with the job of the Government in taking this country forward. That is what we are going to do.
I dare say that every Member of this House can bring to mind their own John Robinson, perhaps several. Though you would not know it, I also think that most Members of this House know that justice and mercy and humility also go hand in hand—a fact known by many who watch these proceedings too. In asking us to forgive him on behalf of all those John Robinsons we represent, my right hon. Friend could not have made a more humble apology. But justice leading into mercy relies on a very old-fashioned concept, and that is repentance. What assurance can he give us that nothing of this kind will ever happen again?
I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. I am heartily sorry, as I have said. I wish it had not happened and I wish that things had been totally different. What I have already done, as the House will know, is take steps to change the way we do things in No. 10. But that, in itself, is not enough. I accept full responsibility myself for my actions.
The Prime Minister’s supposed apology to the nation is pathetic. Last year he told bereaved families in Downing Street that he had done everything possible to save their loved ones. Now he has been fined for breaking his own laws, illustrating just how soft the Tories have become on crime. Does he accept that his words ring hollow for those of us who have lost loved ones?
I repeat what I have said. I know that the hon. Gentleman has experienced bereavement during the pandemic and I am sorry for his loss. I repeat my apologies for what happened in No. 10.
I was desperately sad to hear about my constituent John Robinson. My own best friend’s mother died in hospital and he was not able to see her. I recall, of course, that the Prime Minister’s mother also died during the covid crisis. We have all suffered from these heart-wrenching tragedies and none of us should forget it. I want to ask a quick question regarding Ukraine. The Prime Minister has announced that he is going to provide new, modern, mobile ground-to-air missile systems. How will we be able to train the Ukrainians during this war situation so that they can be put into use before it is too late?
I thank my hon. Friend and repeat my condolences to his friend. On the Starstreak and other systems that we are using—that we are supplying to Ukraine—the Ukrainians are now being trained, as he can imagine, outside the immediate theatre of conflict.
The Prime Minister genuinely does not seem to understand how he got his fine or what he did to break the law. He wrote, “What an utter nonsense.” If a man is so incompetent that he cannot understand his own rules, is he also a man who cannot understand the public’s challenges given the pace and scale of the soaring cost of living?
That is exactly why the Government are focused on those issues. That is what we need to get on with. It is about dealing with the aftershocks of covid, and the impact of the Ukrainian crisis on fuel prices and on inflation. That is where we are focused 100%.
Yes, someone needs to have the courage to get rid of the leader, but it is the leader who is sitting in the Kremlin and causing the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people. Maybe I only speak for myself, and I say it in all humility, but I am not going to give the satisfaction to that death’s head tyrant of removing a British Prime Minister who has given an apology, and who was working night and day to save thousands of lives and went downstairs to thank his staff who were doing the same job. He has apologised: let us show some compassion.
I thank my right hon. Friend very much for what he has said. I just want to say one important thing: it is very important in this Ukrainian crisis that we do not make it an objective to remove the Russian leader or to change politics in Russia. This is about protecting the people of Ukraine, which is what we are doing. Putin will try to frame it as a struggle between him and the west, but we cannot accept that. This is about his brutal attack on the people of Ukraine.
Here we are again, talking about the Prime Minister and his misdemeanours. It is frustrating for all of us on both sides of the House that we still have to be here, but the Prime Minister has led us on this merry dance—nobody else. After all the apologies today, Prime Minister, please resign, because we have had enough. The country deserves better.
If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I must respectfully direct her to what I have already said.
May I recognise the Prime Minister’s contrition, humility and apology before the House today? As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine, I thank him for his leadership on Ukraine and pass on the cross-party thanks of people from the Rada, the Parliament in Ukraine, for his leadership in this conflict. I encourage him to steel the resolve and resilience of our EU partners and NATO members that think that if Putin gains eastern and southern Ukraine, he will stop there. Is it not the case that he would be reinvigorated and come back for Kyiv, and perhaps other NATO allies, on another day?
I thank my hon. Friend for his clarity of thought and his own leadership on Ukraine. I am afraid he is entirely right to say that it is all too possible that Putin will acquire fresh momentum in the east, and I am afraid we could see a resurgence of Russian attacks.
It is quite difficult to follow the Prime Minister’s excuses, but I think what he is saying today is that he did not think he was breaking any covid rules because the gathering in respect of which he was fined was covered by a workplace exemption. If that is correct, why did he pay the fixed penalty notice fine? Why did he not refuse to do so and set out his defence in court? I suggest that he did not do so because he was afraid of his track record to date before the courts of both this jurisdiction and my own in Scotland. Judges and juries, like our constituents, tend to have a pretty good handle on issues of credibility and reliability, and that is why the Prime Minister did not take his chances with the court. Is that not correct?
I have explained that I believed that the event was in conformity with the rules. That has turned out not to be true. I humbly and sincerely accept that.
I thank the Prime Minister for what he has said in the House today, which I think will mean something to my constituents in Harlow. He mentioned that one of the great challenges that the Government are facing is the cost of living. Could he build on the work of the Chancellor in the spring statement and take further measures to cut the cost of living, perhaps either by getting rid of the green levies that account for 25% of our energy bills or by at least introducing a downwards escalator so that when the international energy price goes high, the green levies would be reduced?
I thank my right hon. Friend very much, and I know that he has campaigned assiduously for his constituents and the whole country to reduce the burden, particularly of fuel costs. I know that he will have been pleased by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s decision to cut 5p off fuel duty—a record cut—and we will do more as soon as we can to help people with the cost of living.
Is the Prime Minister aware that those of us who have known him for a long time know that he has spent his life apologising humbly? Those of us who know him do not dislike or hate him, but we are waiting for signs that he is mending his ways and changing how he operates. If he thinks that deflecting on to some of the good work that he has done in Ukraine will balance what he has said to the House, may I remind him—he has key links with Washington, as do I—that the view in Washington, Berlin and Paris is that his behaviour here has undermined his status and credibility worldwide?
I in no way wish to deflect from the gravity of the fine that I have received. I want to stress again the apology, but I simply must disagree very profoundly with what the hon. Gentleman has just said.
I have heard the Prime Minister apologise countless times in the Chamber today. I am man enough to accept that. This is about a matter of trust. I trusted the Prime Minister to see us through Brexit, and he did. I trusted him to see us through the covid epidemic—bear in mind that he nearly died of it himself—and he did. And do you know something else? [Interruption.]
Order. I have to say that things have to go through the Chair, not to the SNP.
I totally agree, Mr Speaker. But do you know something else? Most importantly, this Prime Minister is leading the world against Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, and the G7 leaders all respect him for that. And more to the point, so does President Biden. Prime Minister, will you please carry on leading this country?
I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed. The answer to his question is yes, I will. But that in no way means that I wish to mitigate the offence of which I have been found guilty or to undermine the importance of my apology.
My constituent Jason Green wrote to me today to tell me how his wife lost her mother suddenly last year but could not travel to be with her father, who himself died three days later, because they were following the law. They did not get to the funerals either, because they were abiding by the law. Jason does not forgive the Prime Minister. He says that the apologies are too late and that the Prime Minister should resign. What does the Prime Minister have to say to Jason and his family?
I apologise again—not just to Jason, but to the families of all those who lost loved ones during covid. I repeat what I told the House earlier.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and for the way in which he made it. President Zelensky said yesterday that the conflict in Ukraine has moved to the second phase. We all recognise that the balance between offensive and defensive weapons is very fine. As the conflict continues to develop, will my right hon. Friend continue to review where that line stands?
My right hon. Friend asks an extremely important question. I do not think any NATO country, any western country, wants to see its forces or our own weaponry, troops and personnel directly engaged with Russia, but it is wholly legitimate and morally right to give the Ukrainians the equipment with which to protect themselves.
The Prime Minister has come here today and, in some respects, I would have very much welcomed an entire statement about what has been happening in Ukraine. It feels a bit like he seeks cover, which is shameful. The truth of the matter is that, on the cost of living crisis and all the issues that we face both domestically and in foreign affairs, the fundamental issue of whether people can trust our politics matters. If Conservative Members do not ask the Prime Minister to bear the rigour of the things that are put in place to ensure that leaders cannot mislead this House—if they do not walk through the Lobby to do that—they will set a dangerous precedent. So, through you, Mr Speaker, I speak to them rather than to the Prime Minister. But I ask the Prime Minister: should I look forward to a similar statement after the next fine? And, to stretch the metaphor, after three speeding fines, one has one’s driving licence removed, so at what point in his fine history will he see sense?
I thank the hon. Member very much and want to repeat what I have said already: I apologise for the fine I have received. I cannot comment about any hypothetical situations.
I know that many in Aberconwy have written to me about their upset at events, but I know too that many in Aberconwy will have heard the Prime Minister’s apology today and will welcome it. I welcome it; indeed, perhaps we all have the hope that there is forgiveness in our future and not just punishment for our past. I also welcome the fact that the Prime Minister talked about his obligations, so will he please update the House on his commitment to strengthening the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
I thank my hon. Friend very much, and thank him for all the work that he does to protect and support the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As he knows, it is under a lot of pressure, caused by the Northern Irish protocol, which I believe is undermining the balance of the Good Friday agreement, and we will have to sort it out.
The Prime Minister debases himself, he debases his office, he debases his Government and he debases those who seek to defend him. He is a millstone around his party’s neck. The Welsh Conservatives’ 18-page local election manifesto makes zero reference to the Prime Minister. It appears that they, like a number of his own Back Benchers, do not want to be associated with him. Can he explain why?
I think what they probably want to have in Wales is better government. I would think they are campaigning for the investment in the NHS that I am afraid both Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru have failed to deliver.
I thank the Prime Minister for his fulsome apology today. Given that, does he agree that the priority for the House and the Government must be the very real challenges facing our country, particularly the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the cost of living pressures caused by covid and worsened by Russia’s war on Ukraine? Coming from Poland, having helped with Ukrainian child refugees last week, I pass on, if I may, the widespread respect and admiration in which his leadership on Ukraine is held.
May I thank my hon. Friend very much for what she has been doing to help refugees in Poland? We talked about it the other day. I know that many other Members across the House are doing the same, and I thank them all.
I share the Prime Minister’s thoughts on Ukraine. Over Easter, my constituents collected the morning-after pill to send to Ukraine for women who are being raped by Russian forces. But their disgust, and their admiration for Britain’s role, does not dampen their anger at the Prime Minister’s action. It was not just the crime, but the lie, the obfuscation and the fake apologies—
Order. No, I decide; I am sorry, you cannot take my job. You are the Back Bencher, I am in the Chair. We do not use the word “lie”. I explained that earlier and I stand by it, so I am sure you will withdraw it immediately.
The sentence is not about the Prime Minister, but I will withdraw it if you do not like that word, Mr Speaker.
Those were the things that got Jeffrey Archer, Fiona Onasanya and Chris Huhne kicked out of this place or forced to resign. Of course, I have no hope of the Prime Minister’s Front Benchers, who are tax-dodging, Russian-financed snowflakes, but I do have higher hopes for his Back Benchers, so how many Back Benchers should have their credibility destroyed in supporting the Prime Minister?
Order. Let us try and see if we can keep it temperate and moderate. “There was no individual mentioned, so therefore it was within the rules”—that is not what I would expect, but that is where we are.
I heard what the hon. Member said. I do not agree with it, and nor do I agree with what he said about those on the Front Bench.
I was lucky, in that on Saturday night I got to hold the hand of my father-in-law as he died of complications from covid, so I understand the anger that many people feel and the challenge that we all face when it comes to the credibility of our Government and the good actions of this Conservative Government, which I support. But I have to ask my right hon. Friend what steps he has in mind to restore the moral authority of this Government.
I think the best thing the Government can do is to continue to deliver on the promises that we made to the British people, and that is what we are doing.
The respected constitutional historian Lord Peter Hennessy reminds us that it is the Prime Minister who is the guardian of the ministerial code. What can we do to protect that code when the person who is entrusted with guarding it breaks the code and its overarching duty to comply with the law, and becomes, in the words of Lord Hennessy, “a rogue Prime Minister”?
I do not agree with that characterisation. I have explained to the House why I spoke as I did, and I have apologised for the mistake that I made.
My constituents in Sedgefield have expressed their satisfaction at how we are helping the people of Ukraine, but also their frustration and anger at events in No. 10. They also believe that one is not linked to the other. The Prime Minister’s contrition over his error is welcome, and I thank him for it. While it was a clear error of judgment, I certainly do not believe it is a resigning matter. If it was, then, regardless of Ukraine, it still would be. I, like many, have missed the funeral of a close friend, but I would still have missed that funeral regardless of the PM’s error, because the rules were correct and his error does not change that. As regards Ukraine, though, may I encourage him to please continue his efforts with full vigour?
I thank my hon. Friend very much. I understand the frustration and anger of his constituents in Sedgefield. I understand perfectly how they feel; I renew my apologies to them, and I also share what he has to say about Ukraine.
Conservative Members have talked about repentance, the Prime Minister has offered us his apology, and we are being asked to move on, but the critical question for all of us is whether the Metropolitan police has moved on from this matter. The Prime Minister says that he cannot deal with hypotheticals, but now that it has occurred to him what a party actually is, can he tell us whether he expects more fines to come? Yes or no?
I would love to give more commentary on this, but I have told the House very clearly that I cannot do that until the investigation is complete.
The deputy head of the Ukrainian President’s office has said that the UK is the leader in defence support for Ukraine, the leader in the anti-war coalition and the leader in sanctions against the Russian aggressor. With Russia’s offensive in the Donbas beginning the next stage of Putin’s appalling invasion, can my right hon. Friend assure me that the UK will remain the leader of international efforts to support Ukraine, including by persuading all our friends and allies of the need to stand up to Putin’s outrageous actions?
I thank my hon. Friend very much. I know that the whole House—I think the unity on this has been important—will want the UK Government to continue to take that role, and we will certainly will.
People across these islands had to watch through care home windows as their loved ones died. Parents had to bury their children without the comfort of their family around them. While that was happening, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor were partying in Downing Street. We know he has no respect for the public, but can he show us that he has some respect—just a little bit of respect—for himself and please, please, please resign now?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I understand the feelings of his constituents, but I must direct him to what I said earlier on.
May I welcome the Prime Minister’s renewed focus on nuclear energy and its power to transform our energy independence? Does he also recognise that we need not just energy independence, but independence in our foundation industries such as chemicals and steel?
Yes, indeed. Can I congratulate my hon. Friend on his recent marriage, by the way? We certainly see nuclear energy as of vital importance, as well of course as investing in our new technologies, which is why we are putting record investments into R&D—£22 billion.
The Prime Minister broke the laws that he made—laws to protect public health—and then repeatedly misled Parliament. Does the Prime Minister agree that comments made by his Northern Ireland Secretary this morning comparing his fine to a parking ticket are insulting, and when will he do what the majority of those in this country want and resign?
I thank the hon. Member. Look, I in no way minimise the importance of the fine I have received, as I have said several times this afternoon.
We all have our faults and I am sure the Prime Minister would agree that he has his share of his own, but he also has many attributes, and one of them is courage. It took courage to go to Ukraine to stand up for freedom and for people who have been subjected to barbarism. I must take this opportunity to ask my right hon. Friend if he will review the cuts to our armed forces and ensure that the future of this country is invested in to meet this future and very real threat?
I thank my hon. Friend, who is a valiant campaigner for the armed forces in all their guises, and quite rightly. It is partly thanks to the lobbying of himself and others like him that we have increased defence spending by record sums—£24 billion—and that has enabled us and helped us greatly in helping our Ukrainian friends.
A constituent wrote to me about his feelings about the Downing Street parties. Good Friday was the second anniversary of the death of his wife, a healthcare assistant at Bolton Hospital, who died from covid. Over the 10 days she was ill, he was not able to go with her to hospital or visit her until just before she died. After she died, he had to plan her funeral alone, there was no wake, and after the funeral he had to go back to an empty home with no support from family and friends. It is clear that the Conservative party wants to move on, but since his wife died, my constituent tells me he has been unable to work, to move on or to grieve. I want to ask my constituent’s question to the Prime Minister directly:
“I followed the law to the letter, so why does the government think that the laws don’t apply to them?”
I want to say again how sorry I am for the loss of the hon. Member’s constituent, and I apologise to him personally and to his family—all those who lost loved ones—and it is a measure of the seriousness with which I take this today. Of course, we think the law applies to us: of course it does.
At high altitude, one’s nose starts to bleed. With the rise in national insurance and more tax than for 70 years, our constituents are crying out for help—whether with their energy bills, whether with the rents that have gone up by at least 20% in some parts of my constituency—yet we will be facing this sort of debate day after day until the Prime Minister faces up to his responsibility and resigns, or the Conservative Members here take him out. That is the choice before we can actually start to focus on the things that matter.
May I respectfully say to the hon. Member that I think the real choice that this Government —this House of Commons—should follow is getting on with the job of serving the people we were elected to serve and helping them with the costs of living? That is what we are doing.
At Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday
“there was no party and…no covid rules were broken.”—[Official Report,
Today, he refers to his lawbreaking as a “mistake”. Can the Prime Minister explain to my constituents, and indeed to children across these isles, what the difference is between a lie and a mistake?
I have apologised deeply for what I got wrong, and I have explained to the House why I spoke as I did on that occasion and others.
Many references have been made to the views of the electorate of this country, and I can tell the Prime Minister that those views are shared by my constituents as well. So I would ask the Prime Minister: would he be prepared to take a truth detection test after every prime ministerial statement?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is being serious, but I spoke in all good faith to the House, and I will continue to do so.
I wonder what continued purpose the Prime Minister sees for the ministerial code, given the frequency with which it is seemingly broken with impunity. How can the UK be a credible leader on liberal democratic values around the world, when the basic norms of accountability are thrown aside to save the skin of one man?
The answer to that question is staring the hon. Member in the face, if he looks at what is happening around the world. The UK is providing moral, political and diplomatic leadership as well as military support, and that is what we will continue to do.
The Prime Minister happens to believe that he did not knowingly break the law. Many of my constituents will have difficulty accepting that. However, if we suspend disbelief for a minute, the Prime Minister is—this is based on his own words—telling the world that he did not know what the rules were, so I ask him: does he think someone who does not understand the laws they are bringing in is fit to lead this country?
I thank the hon. Member very much. I have explained why I thought that the event was within the rules, and I apologise very sincerely.
Many Newcastle upon Tyne Central residents have contacted me to share precious moments missed, and have charged me with holding the Prime Minister to account. They do not accept his apology, because they thought long and hard about the difficult decisions they had to make, weighing up the huge personal cost against the terrible consequences of spreading the virus. They made the right decision. The Prime Minister did not, apparently because he is too stupid to understand his own regulations. If he is so much stupider than my constituents, why—how—can he claim to lead them and the nation?
I thank the hon. Member’s constituents very much for what they did throughout the pandemic. It is thanks to people up and down the country who followed the rules that we have been able to defeat covid, or beat it back in the way that we have, and I apologise heartily for what I got wrong.
I, like so many others in this place, I am sure, am profoundly proud of the way in which the people of this country stood together and showed commitment and resolve throughout the covid crisis. They are now facing a cost of living crisis, and on top of all that, they are giving 100% support to the people of Ukraine. It breaks my heart that they have been so badly let down by the person to whom they looked to lead them with the same sort of commitment and honour that they have shown. Does the Prime Minister recognise that no apology, however heartfelt or genuine, can make up for that loss of faith? Perhaps it is time he recognised that the people of this country deserve better.
I thank the hon. Member very much, and I understand completely people’s feelings about covid, what they did and the failings in No. 10, but I think that the job of the Government is to get on and deliver for those very people now facing the cost of living crisis that she describes, and that is what we are going to do.
Prime Minister, I personally found that apology shocking. People have lost loved ones and have not been able to attend their funerals. My BTEC tutor in performing arts, Martin Cosgrif, sadly passed away from covid. He saw something in the young me, who many felt was destined for nothing, and encouraged me to attend university. He was a fantastic man and is deeply missed by all his students. In the words of one of his friends, “We were his children,” yet none of us was able to attend his funeral. What does the Prime Minister say to all of Martin’s former students from Accrington and Rossendale College, who were unable to mark the passing of this influential man?
He sounds like a remarkable man, and I am very sorry for the hon. Lady’s loss, and the loss of all the pupils she mentions.
We have rightly heard from Conservative Members about the barbaric nature of Putin’s aggressive attitude to Ukraine, but nothing about the Prime Minister’s party returning the donations it has received from friends of Putin; when can we hear about that?
I thank the hon. Lady very much, and all donations are registered in the normal way.
Paul Howell said that he felt that the issues covered by the statement were not linked, but I have to disagree. We support Ukraine because we support democracy, self-determination and the international rules-based order. Does the Prime Minister not understand that when we go to other countries and ask them to follow a rules-based order, they will now simply say, “You don’t follow your own rules, mate, so why should we follow the rules you want us to follow”? He is undermining this country and our reputation abroad.
On the contrary, I believe that people abroad can see how closely our leaders and rulers are held to account, and that is exactly what we are fighting for and helping the Ukrainians to defend.
In yet another shameless episode, the Prime Minister comes here and says, “I am sorry I was caught, but there is a war in Ukraine and a cost of living crisis”—a crisis that his Government have done nothing to alleviate. We are asked to believe that this lawbreaking, incompetent Prime Minister is the best the UK can rely on during this time of crisis for Ukraine and for the cost of living. Is that not a metaphor for the UK, of which he is the figurehead, and is it not time for him to go?
The most important thing is that we focus on the priorities of the people of this country—in Scotland and around the country—and tackle the aftershocks of covid, the effects of the war in Ukraine and the impact on inflation, and that is what we are doing.
I completely accept that the police are right, and that is why I have paid the fine.
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 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.
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?
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.
The public will be appalled by the Prime Minister’s statement, because not only did he make a statement to the nation virtually every night during the pandemic, but the Government he leads spent hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ pounds on advertising campaigns demanding that the public followed the rules. One featured a woman in intensive care on a ventilator. The Prime Minister must have seen it; it said:
“Look her in the eyes and tell her you never bend the rules.”
Three months ago I reminded him of this, and asked him to explain himself; he told me to wait until after the police had investigated. They now have; it is clear that he bent the rules. He is taking the public for fools, isn’t he?
I apologise again. I thank the public very much for what they did: by their collective action, they have helped us to keep covid at bay.
But giving an apology and then carrying on is not being held to account. Does the Prime Minister recognise that there is a very serious problem for the long term in leaving a lawbreaker in charge of the lawmakers?
I have said what I have said. I apologise and want to say again to the House that when I spoke before in this Chamber about events in Downing Street, I spoke in good faith.
The Prime Minister spent less than two minutes addressing his lawbreaking in his statement to the House; that is somewhat less than the full account he has promised for the last few weeks. The one thing our constituents wanted to hear was a resignation statement, not any more of these mealy-mouthed apologies. The public will be astounded that the word they now most associate with the Prime Minister we cannot use to describe him in this House. The country knows what he is; we know what he is; and I think the Prime Minister even knows what he is. Will he now, for the sake of this country, just go?
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much and repeat what I said earlier. I apologise and direct him to my earlier statement.
Margot from Acton turns five on Saturday. We were talking at an Easter service over the break, and she wanted me to ask the Prime Minister to come to her party, while her parents, in common with the majority of our nation—look at any opinion poll—think he should signal his intention to step down today. To spare himself the embarrassment of the local election results and further fines to come—he cannot rule out further fines for even more boozy parties that were much worse than being ambushed by a cake—will he do both? That way—he has able deputies—he can have something nice to look forward to at the weekend, somewhere where there will be no illegality.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for her kind invitation. I do not know whether Margot herself wants to extend the invitation, but I am afraid I will be busy doing what we are doing: getting on with delivering the priorities of the British people.
Lord Denning said, “No matter how high you are, the law is above you.” Isn’t it time to go, Prime Minister?
I agree very much with Lord Denning, and that is why I apologise in the way that I do.
Having read the Prime Minister’s apology, may I say on behalf of the people of Argyll and Bute, is that it? It is no wonder I have been inundated with emails from constituents who believe the Prime Minister has been treating them like fools. Typical of the emails I have received is one this morning from Cathy in Helensburgh, who described the Prime Minister as
“a self-serving, truth-twisting charlatan.”
Of course I would never use such language in this place, but Cathy’s assessment is absolutely correct. Does the Prime Minister recognise this to be a widely held view of his character?
Order. I have asked for moderate and temperate language; that is not a clever way of getting around that. I ask the hon. Gentleman to think long and hard before doing that again—and this might be a warning to others. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would like to withdraw the way he put that.
Mr Speaker, with respect to you and the Chair, I withdraw the remarks I made.
In that case, I humbly remind the hon. Gentleman of the apology I have given.
The Prime Minister’s case for his defence seems to be based on it being impossible for him to resign because of the Ukraine war, but his entire parliamentary party, from where his replacement would be drawn, is united around the Government position on Ukraine, and of course there are numerous examples of Conservative Members of Parliament moving against leaders, such as Margaret Thatcher in 1990 and Chamberlain in 1940, so will the Prime Minister explain to the House why he specifically and individually has to carry on as Prime Minister at this time? Surely it is not because he thinks that this House trusts him to do so.
The hon. Gentleman asks an elaborate question; let me give a simple answer: I have apologised and continue to apologise, and what I want to do is get on with the job.
When is the Prime Minister going to stop dissembling, distracting and deflecting and start telling the truth to this House?
At all times, I have spoken in good faith to this House.
This is the first Prime Minister in office to make and break his own rules for lockdown offences. Neil Ferguson resigned from SAGE and Catherine Calderwood quit as Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer—both for breaking covid rules. They realised that actions speak louder than words, and they took responsibility. Why is it right for them to resign and not for the Prime Minister?
I thank the hon. Lady very much and repeat the apology that I have given.
The Prime Minister has broken the law—guilty as charged—that many people up and down our shores abided by. They never had the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones. The Prime Minister also misled the House over and over again and misled the public over and over again. Does he believe in the ministerial code? Is it worth the paper it is written on?
Let me repeat my apologies for what I got wrong and what went wrong in Downing Street and also my explanation for why I have spoken as I have in this House.
Originally, there was one party, and the Prime Minister told the House that he had been assured that there was no party. It then turned out that there were parties but he was not in attendance. He then had to tell the House that he had in fact attended parties. He told the House that he had been assured on each occasion of the truth of what he said, so someone must have committed a serious breach of their responsibilities to advise the Prime Minister in a way that led to him coming to the House and inadvertently misleading the House. What has happened to those people?
I have apologised for what I have got wrong and I take full responsibility for everything that happened in No.10. For the rest of his question, the hon. Gentleman must wait for the completion of the investigation.
Energy bills are soaring, wages are falling and the cost of living crisis is getting worse and worse, but while my constituents are forced to choose between heating and eating, the Chancellor is benefiting from the non-dom tax loophole and 17 of the Prime Minister’s 22 Cabinet members have refused to deny that they or their families benefit from tax havens or non-dom status. They are laughing in our faces while robbing the public purse. So I ask the Prime Minister, how many more children need to go hungry at night before he stops putting the greed of his super-rich mates before the needs of ordinary people?
Order. Can the hon. Lady withdraw “robbing the public purse”? That is just not the case.
If the Downing Street photographer is a publicly funded post, does that mean that all the photographs of the parties are public property and should be available for access?
I am not going to comment on the investigation until it is complete.
Truth and honesty matter, and the Prime Minister has repeatedly told the House that all guidance and all rules were observed. That is not true. He also told the House that there were no parties; indeed, his Chancellor also said that he had not attended a party. Neither of those things are true. So, for once in his privileged, entitled life, will he do the decent thing, come to the Dispatch Box, and correct the record? There isn’t anybody who is fooled by this, but he continues to take the British people for fools, and they will not put up with it.
I thank the hon. Gentleman very much. I want to repeat what I have said about the event in question, for which I have received an FPN. I apologise heartily for that. It was my mistake entirely. I thought it was within the rules and it has turned out not to be the case. As for other events, I’m afraid I am going to have to stick by what I have said previously and await—I hope he will allow me—the conclusion of the investigation.
I got many emails from my constituents over the weekend. One of them has stuck with me; it is from Victoria, who worked in respiratory wards during the covid-19 pandemic. She says:
“I’ve watched people die alone, sick and confused, begging us to see their family one last time, with only us to hold their hands and comfort them. I’ve watched family members banging on the locked ward doors, crying, screaming and pleading for us to let them hold their dying loved ones. We were the ones that watched this and enforced this. We were the ones who had to tell families how sorry we were but that the government guidelines meant they couldn’t hug their families one last time.
The time for apologies is over, we don’t accept them.”
When will the Prime Minister resign?
I want to thank her for what she has said, but to remind her of what I have already said, which is that I feel the greatest sorrow and grief for those like Victoria who have lost loved ones during the pandemic. I understand the pain that they must feel and the anger that they must feel, and I repeat my apologies.
The fact that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have both been fined for breaking the very rules that they themselves set means that they are either incompetent or they think that the people of our country are beneath them. Either way, and with the prospect of further fines looming for the Prime Minister, they are not fit to occupy the two highest offices in the land. My constituents of Liverpool, Wavertree have overwhelmingly told me that they do not believe their apologies to be sincere, so the question for my constituents is when they can expect your resignations.
I thank her. Look, I cannot offer any further commentary on the investigation. All I can do is renew and repeat the apologies I have given to her constituents, whether they accept them or not.
Only this Prime Minister could have, together with his staff, laughed up their sleeves believing they were above the law and demonstrated to an entire country that they are beneath the public’s respect, more accurately. Vacuous self-congratulations from the Tory opposite about the role that the Government are playing in Ukraine are a disservice to the service men and women who are in country, doing the spade work, protecting democracy. To use the bloodshed of the fallen Ukrainians as some sort of political cover to keep this Prime Minister in office, is an utter disgrace, but no less than my Angus constituents have come to expect. This Government are compounding the cost of living crisis, but we are led to believe that that, together with the Ukraine crisis, is why we must endure this Prime Minister. So let me test his knowledge. What anti-ship missiles will his Government be sending to Ukraine? If he cannot answer that simple question, will he resign?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. One of the systems that we are looking at, since he asks, is to see if we can mount some Brimstones on the back of technicals to see if that will do the job, but there are other options that I do not want to discuss.
Let me first wish the Prime Minister good luck in their trip to India, where I am sure they will raise the ongoing arbitrary detention of Jagtar Singh Johal with Prime Minister Modi. That said, if the Prime Minister believes that they inadvertently misled the House based on evidence given at the time, surely the Prime Minister would then agree with me and with Alex Massie of The Spectator that such an offence rests on the proposition that the Prime Minister is an idiot?
I have spoken in good faith and, of course, continue to raise the case of his constituent.
Does the Prime Minister believe that a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who openly treats the public like they are mugs is a help or a hindrance to the cause of Scottish independence?
I believe that the biggest help to the cause of the Union is the incompetence of the Scottish Nationalists in government.
The whole functioning of this place hangs on the belief that everyone behaves in an honourable way at all times. Unfortunately, the people who matter out there do not believe that we do. We now know that 72% of them think that the Prime Minister is part of the problem; 72% of the citizens of these four nations cannot hear the two words “Boris” and “Johnson” without immediately hearing a word that I am not allowed to say on their behalf. Is the Prime Minister really going to look my constituents in the eye and tell them that the best future they can hope for is a future under a Prime Minister whose character and conduct can only be described in words that are banned from use in this place?
I think the best future for the people of Scotland is to continue with the United Kingdom that has served this country well for hundreds of years and whose role is valued around the world, perhaps never more than in the last few months.
Surely it is not a new Member for the SNP? I call Jeff Smith.
It is so busy I could not find a space, Mr Speaker.
The event in question happened on
“When she needed me most, I was told I could not visit her because of the no visitors rule. In the texts I received from her, it was obvious that she needed somebody to just talk to and hold her hand.”
Steven obeyed the rules and, like so many people, he thinks the Prime Minister should stand down. The defence from Conservative Back Benchers seems to be that he cannot resign because we have a crisis in Ukraine. Does the Prime Minister think he is the only person on the Conservative Benches who is capable of leading the country through a crisis?
I apologise sincerely to—I think the hon. Gentleman said the name of his constituent was Steven—Steven and his family for what we got wrong and what I got wrong during the pandemic, and the event for which I have apologised today. But I think the best thing we can do—I have said what I have said about how I have spoken in this House—is get on now with delivering for the people of this country, up and down this country, getting us through the aftershocks of covid, as we got people through the pandemic.
There is no point of order now—we are in the middle of statements.