Correcting the Record

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:33 pm on 24 October 2023.

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Photo of Lucy Powell Lucy Powell Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 4:33, 24 October 2023

I put on record my thanks to the Procedure Committee for its report on correcting the record, and to all those inside and outside the House who contributed to that report. Any strengthening of transparency and accountability for Members is welcome, as are steps to make this easier to understand and contextualise.

When speaking to the House of Commons, Members are expected to tell the truth to the best of their knowledge. If they identify an error in something they have said to the House, they are obliged to correct the record at the earliest opportunity. Since 2007, we have had a system in place for ministerial corrections to be linked to the Minister’s original error, and it is right that the Procedure Committee looked at the effectiveness of that system and how it can be extended to Back-Bench and Opposition Members. We can see from the Committee’s report that ministerial corrections reached a high point in the 2019-21 Session, and that during this Session, Ministers have corrected the record 1.5 times a day. The Committee also received evidence from a number of sources—including Members from across the House, Full Fact, and the Constitution Unit—about their concerns that there are currently few effective mechanisms for challenging inaccurate statements made by Ministers and, indeed, other Members. However, recommendations were not made to that end.

It is ironic that we are discussing transparency, as it has emerged that the Government published 160 transparency documents on by-election day last Thursday. That is the highest single total for more than three years, beating the previous record of 130 documents published on the day that three by-elections were held in July. Data in this dump, but unable to be reported because broadcast media were unable to do so during the by-elections, included the news that 42 hospitals and 43 additional schools have been identified with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, and details relating to the Prime Minister’s spending on flights.

In conclusion, we support this motion. The current system can be opaque for Members and members of the public, and bringing corrections together in one place will make these more accessible and transparent.