Boris Johnson has admitted that he “misspoke” after he told MPs that the Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich was “already facing sanctions”.
Downing Street said the prime minister would correct the parliamentary record after he mistakenly included the Chelsea FC owner as one of those hit by the government’s retaliatory measures against Russian interests.
The prime minister set out sanctions against five Russian banks and three wealthy Russian individuals in response to Vladimir Putin’s military incursion into Ukraine, but Mr Abramovich was not on the list.
Challenged by Labour MP Margaret Hodge on why Mr Abramovich and others had not be targeted, Mr Johnson said “Abramovich is already facing sanctions” – sparking claims he had misled the House.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said the prime minister’s claim was “untrue” and challenged him to quickly “correct the record” to clear up any confusion.
Asked about the remarks in the Commons, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The prime minister misspoke,” before making clear the record would be correct with parliamentary authorities.
Ms Hodge had told MPs that she had received legal advice that there were “serious flaws” in the sanctions legislation which would allow many “close to Putin” to escape financial penalties.
Prior to No 10’s correction, Mr Bryant raised a point of order in the Commons. “The prime minister said that Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned. As I understand it, that is not true,” he said.
The senior Labour MP, chair of the standards committee, added: “I’m sure the PM was completely inadvertent in giving a false indication. It would be helpful if he could correct the record.”
Replying to Mr Bryant’s request that the record be corrected, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: “If a correction is necessary, I’m sure it will be forthcoming.”
The government’s sanctions were dismissed as “feeble” by MPs within moments of being announced by the prime minister on Tuesday.
Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: “These are not the biggest banks. I’d like to see this go much further and much faster.”
As well as hitting major Russian banks and three individuals, the government has also vowed to sanction members of the Russian parliament who voted to recognise the independence of separatist areas of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has signalled Russia should be stripped of hosting this year’s Champions League final following the “renewed invasion” of Ukraine.
The PM told MPs there is “no chance” of holding football tournaments in a Russia that “invades sovereign countries”.
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