Until yesterday, only ministers were able to correct the official record of what was said in parliament. Beneath this apparent technicality is a simple story: our system was fundamentally broken, making accountability next to impossible.
This meant that correcting mistakes wasn’t always a priority for our elected representatives. It also meant that MPs who wanted to show us that they could lead with honesty and integrity, by promptly correcting their mistakes, were not able to do so. At its heart, not being able to correct the official record made it impossible to put honesty front and centre in parliament.
That is now going to change. MPs who make mistakes will be able to correct the record to make sure that their words don’t mislead people in the future. The visibility of corrections will be improved on Hansard, the official record, and everyone will be able to see when MPs correct the record on an easily accessible corrections page.
This means we will be able to demand a higher standard from all of our MPs – if they can correct the official record after they get something factually wrong, why wouldn’t they? And why wouldn’t their peers hold them accountable when they do make mistakes? All parliamentarians will now face an added pressure to champion honesty and accuracy in public life.
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This has been made possible through the pressure of more than 50,000 Full Fact supporters, who have helped to champion our campaign to fix a broken corrections system and restore honesty in politics.
And to be clear: this is not about trying to expose MPs to further criticism, or to catch them out. Full Fact wants to increase trust in politics, not diminish it. But that has to start with our elected representatives taking the lead.
Today marks one year since our prime minister took office, when he promised to lead with honesty and integrity. The prime minister, unlike MPs, has always been able to correct the record. Yet since October last year, we have asked him to correct the record five times with no response.
This is just one example of how much change is needed before our political system can truly be considered fixed. Our campaign win does change parliament’s rules, and will help stem the tide. But we now need to tackle the source.
Next, we need to see MPs routinely making corrections on social media, showing willingness to avoid misleading their constituents and the thousands of people who follow them. It is not enough to delete a tweet: MPs should be helping create a good information environment.
And there must be consequences for false or misleading claims that are not corrected. We want to see MPs holding each other accountable through debate, written questions and relevant committees. And we will continue to campaign for a new mechanism in parliament, to deal with any MPs who refuse to correct the record in egregious circumstances..
Honesty needs to become a priority. Political parties need to review their own internal policies to make sure they champion corrections. And we need to see a general election where politicians on all sides prioritise accuracy and transparency.
But the hard work can’t just be left to MPs – inaccurate and misleading claims can cause damage on social media and the airwaves. Broadcasters should be ready to review their policies and practices when it comes to correcting false and misleading claims made by politicians, undoing the damage done as far as is realistic and possible.
On Monday, we saw MPs debating whether to make lying in parliament a criminal offence. The public cares about this issue. Full Fact research showed that 71% of the population believe there is more lying and misuse of facts in politics and media now than 30 years ago. We also know that a lack of faith in politics has been a top 10 concern for the public for more than 12 months. This problem isn’t going anywhere.
Until our leaders start to champion honesty in politics, our work will not be done.
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