Ministers should resign for briefing out details of the budget in advance of the chancellor’s address to MPs on Wednesday, the Speaker has suggested.
“At one time, ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a budget – they walked,” he said.
Back in 1947, Labour chancellor Hugh Dalton was forced to quit after leaking key passages of his budget to a reporter.
Cries of “resign” could be heard in the chamber as Sir Lindsay spoke, with the Speaker adding: “Yes absolutely, resign. It seems to me we’ve got ourselves in a position that if you’ve not got it out five days before it’s not worth putting out.
“I’ve got to say, 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 for the days following that to be able 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.”
Sir Lindsay was speaking ahead of an urgent question on the government’s pledge to invest £6bn in tackling NHS waiting lists across England and improving the use of digital technology in hospitals, one of the announcements made at the weekend.
The Speaker said he had “repeatedly” made it clear to ministers that they “must make important announcements first to this chamber”.
He continued: “Despite those very clear comments, it is evident that the government and the Treasury briefed journalists on the content of the forthcoming budget over the weekend, including on NHS funding.
“Therefore, and in line with what I told the House last Thursday, I am giving the House the earliest opportunity to hold the government to account.
“I repeat to the government that if they persist in making announcements first outside this House, ministers will be called to account in this chamber at the earliest opportunity.”
Downing Street defended the slew of announcements, with the prime minister’s official spokesman saying: “We recognise the importance of keeping parliament and the public informed when decisions are taken, as the government has endeavoured to do throughout the pandemic.
“We will always seek to ensure arrangements are made so parliament is informed and that we reach the public at the same time.
“Obviously the chancellor will make his full budget statement to the House as expected on Wednesday.”
Follow budget coverage live on Sky News on Wednesday with the chancellor’s announcement from 12.30pm
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