Speaker says ministers should resign for pre-Budget briefings on spending

‘At one time ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a Budget: they walked’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 25 October 2021 17:45 BST
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Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested ministers should resign for pre-briefing details of the Budget, as he said it was unacceptable for the government to “try to run roughshod” over Parliament.

Expressing his anger at the move, the Commons speaker hit out at the decision of the Treasury to announce a multi-billion pound funding boost for the NHS — three days before the Budget.

The £5.9bn package unveiled on Sunday evening is aimed at tackling waiting lists, with the number of people waiting routine hospital treatment in England at the highest levels since records began in 2007.

In response, Sir Lindsay granted an urgent question on the funding on Monday, saying the deputy speaker, Dame Eleanor Laing, was “also very upset” at the decision to trail details in advance to the media, before MPs.

The Commons speaker, who has repeatedly and as recently as last week urged the government to make important announcements first in the chamber, said: “At one time ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a Budget: they walked.”

Shouts of “resign” could be heard in the Commons, with the speaker saying: “Yes, absolutely, resign. It seems to me that we’ve got ourselves in our position that if you’ve not got it out five days before it’s not worth putting out.”

He added: “Members are elected to this House to represent their constituents — those constituents quite rightly expect the MP to hear it first, in order to be able to listen to what the Budget is about, but also to hold them to account.

“It’s not acceptable and the government shouldn’t try to run roughshod over this House — it will not happen.”

In response, the health minister Edward Argar said: “I do seek to be assiduous in both my accountability to this House and adhering to its protocols.

“I can assure you what you’ve said just now will be heard not just by me, but by colleagues in my department and in HM Treasury.”

Later this week, the chancellor will set out £3.8bn in extra spending to get the health service “back on track” after the Covid crisis, with investment going into diagnostic services, surgical hubs and boosting bed capacity.

Roughly £2.1bn of the new package will not go directly on care, however, and will instead be spent on “digitising” the NHS, as the government attempts to push the health service into an efficiency drive.

The Treasury said the additional spending comes on top of the government’s plan to spend £8bn on tackling the backlog for non-emergency treatments over the next three years.

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