Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle demands showdown with Boris Johnson over TV lockdown announcement

Boris Johnson was slapped down by Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle last night for ‘disrespecting’ MPs by announcing the four-week lockdown delay in a press conference before informing MPs.

Sir Lindsay made clear his fury after the Prime Minister performed his teatime media duties and then left Health Secretary Matt Hancock to face the ire of lockdown-sceptic backbenchers in the evening.

He accused the PM of ‘running roughshod’ over Parliament, and said Number 10’s treatment of Parliament has been ‘totally unacceptable’ as he again stressed that such announcements should first be made at the despatch box. 

The Speaker told MPs the Prime Minister ‘should be here, I’m sorry if his dinner would have been affected’ after Mr Johnson announced an extension of coronavirus measures to the media.  

Tory MPs furious that the end of lockdown has been postponed to July 19 also vented their anger, with Sir Edward Leigh accusing the PM of preferring ‘patsy questions’ from journalists. 

Sir Lindsay, who has raised similar concerns about the Prime Minister’s priorities in the past, said he intends to demand a face-to-face meeting with the premier to tell him that the Commons ‘matters’ and must be taken ‘seriously’. 

Mr Johnson spent most of yesterday at a Nato summit in Brussels with Joe Biden and other world leaders who are part pf the bloc.

But he returned in time to take the press conference from Downing Street at 6pm. 

Later in the evening he had dinner with Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, where they are said to have put the final touches to a free trade deal announced this morning. 

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of 'running roughshod' over Parliament

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of 'running roughshod' over Parliament

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has blasted Boris Johnson for setting out his lockdown decision at a press conference instead of to MPs as he accused the PM of ‘running roughshod’ over Parliament

Mr Johnson with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison at No10 today

Mr Johnson with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison at No10 today

Mr Johnson with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison at No10 today

TV beats Parliament in battle of lockdown announcements 

Lockdown 1: March 23, 2020

Boris Johnson shocked the nation with one of the most draconian social changes in peacetime Britain as he announced the first lockdown live on television. His address was watched by 27.1million people, making it one of the most watched television programmes in UK history.   

Lockdown 2: October 31, 2020

Boris Johnson announced the second lockdown live on television on a Saturday night, when Parliament was not sitting. It was not his original plan to do so, but he was forced into the sudden move after news of the shutdown was leaked from a Friday ministerial meeting to the media by someone dubbed the ‘chatty rat’.

Lockdown 3: January 4, 2021

Boris Johnson announced the three-month lockdown on television in a statement recorded in Downing Street. Parliament was on its Christmas 2020 recess at the time and did not return until January 11.

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Mr Johnson used a Downing Street press conference last night to announce a four week delay to his lockdown exit roadmap, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock was then set to make a statement to MPs at around 8.30pm. 

But at the beginning of the evening session, the Speaker again blasted Mr Johnson and his government, telling the Commons: ‘This is not how this house should be treated’.

He added: ‘The Government’s own ministerial code says when Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament.

‘The Prime Minister polices the ministerial code, he wrote the foreword to it, he must now lead from the top, and follow the guidance in it.

‘This house can be assured that I will be pursuing this matter with him.

‘I do not find it acceptable at all that members of all this house are elected to come here to serve the constituents – not to serve them via Sky or BBC, the question should be made here, the Prime Minister should be here, I’m sorry if his dinner would have been affected.  

‘Because I was told that he was in Brussels – I think the nearest Brussels tonight was the sprouts at the dinner that was being served.

‘I say now, Prime Minister, you are on my watch, and I want you to treat this house correctly.

‘I now call the unfortunate person who has to pick up the pieces, the secretary of state Matt Hancock.’

MPs are adamant that major announcements should be made to them first so that they can grill the Government.  

Speaking in the Commons this afternoon Sir Lindsay said the Government had no intention of addressing MPs on the subject until tomorrow until he intervened. 

He said: ‘Can I just say, we weren’t going to get a statement until I got involved with Downing Street. 

‘The fact is this has been forced to actually get a statement today, it was going to be left to tomorrow, which would have been totally unacceptable.

‘The fact is – I understand the Prime Minister at the moment is on Nato, there is a big conference going on, he isn’t here – that’s why I insisted that somebody came to make this statement. The timing of it is 8.30pm. I thought that was better than waiting for the Prime Minister to make a statement tomorrow.

‘This House needs to know, it needs to know first. I find it totally unacceptable that once again, once again, that we see Downing Street running roughshod over members of Parliament. 

‘We’re not accepting it and I’m at the stage where I’m beginning to look for other avenues if they’re not going to treat this House seriously.

‘But I will say I think it’s time for me to have a meeting with the Prime Minister to actually put on the record here now but with him that this House matters.’

Sir Lindsay made the comments in response to points of order from two senior Conservative MPs, Peter Bone and Sir Edward Leigh, who both voiced their unhappiness with the handling of the announcement.

Sir Edward, the Tory MP for Gainsborough, said that it would have been ‘perfectly possible for the Prime Minister to come to this chamber at 3.30pm, now, to inform Parliament what was going on’ adding: ‘I quite understand that if you’re the Prime Minister it’s much easier to have a few patsy questions from Laura Kuenssberg and colleagues for a whole hour than being grilled by MPs.’ 

Mr Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, added: ‘It’s a long-standing principle of this House that major changes to Government policy are announced to Parliament first.

‘I can think of no more important policy announcement than changes to regulations that restrict the freedom of the British people.’

He added: ‘What makes this matter more concerning is that about 30 minutes ago the media were given an embargoed copy of the statement.

‘So the media have the statement in advance, there will be a public press conference at 6pm and the last people to know about the changes to the Covid regulations will be members of Parliament.

‘This is clearly very disrespectful to Parliament and probably a contempt of Parliament.’ 

Link hienalouca.com

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