Boris Johnson accused of ‘lie to parliament’ over huge Foreign Office staff cuts

Prime minister called the claim ‘fake news’ - but leaked email to Foreign Office staff confirmed it

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 16 December 2021 14:09
Comments
Boris Johnson wrongly claims there are no plans for 10 percent cut to Foreign Office staff

Boris Johnson is facing fresh accusations of lying to parliament, after wrongly denying that the Foreign Office is planning to slash staff numbers by 10 per cent.

Senior Tory MP Tom Tugendhat protested at the move in the Commons – warning it undermined aspirations for a ‘Global Britain’ – but the prime minister insisted he was wrong.

“The information that has recently trickled into his ears is fake news,” Mr Johnson told the chair of the foreign affairs committee, after the foreign secretary Liz Truss whispered something to him.

But an email to Foreign Office staff, passed to the i newspaper, quickly revealed the cut is coming, stating: “We are planning on the basis of just under a 10 per cent reduction in our overall workforce size by March 2025.”

David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said: “It would appear, not for the first time, the only person spreading fake news is Boris Johnson.

“The government is shrinking our diplomatic presence, and the PM can’t even own up to it. He’s unfit to lead. When you mislead parliament you are misleading the country as well.

Dave Penman, the head of the FDA union for civil servants, said staff would be “surprised” to hear the prime minister deny information that was “fresh in their inbox yesterday”.

“The strategic workforce plan envisages a just under 10 per cent headcount reduction by 2025, mainly achieved through voluntary redundancy,” he warned.

“The criticism often heard is that FCDO [Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office] is a crisis organisation, yet if the government continues to starve it of resources, that is what it will become.”

Chris Bryant, a former Labour minister, went further, saying it appeared Mr Johnson had “lied to parliament when he said it was ‘fake news’”, as “advised” by Ms Truss.

The controversy comes after repeated protests that the prime minister has misled parliament over many issues, including over Covid contracts, the vaccine rollout and rising child poverty.

It also raises questions for the foreign secretary – the grassroots favourite to take over as leader – as she appeared to tell Mr Johnson the information, from her own department, was wrong.

In the Commons, Ms Truss’s deputy, James Cleverly, told MPs “there will not be a 10 per cent staff cut” – but declined to say what reduction will be imposed.

Questioned on the email, he said: “Internal work has taken place that has not been signed off by ministers,” adding: “Ministers will make the final decisions on workforce changes in the spring.”

The Independent understands that no final decision has been taken on staff cuts, as the department wrestles with a 5 per cent overall budget cut.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in