Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”I’m pleased we had a record number of new homes built in the last year.”

PM Rishi Sunak, House of Commons

Facts

Making his first appearance at the despatch box for Prime Minister’s Questions, Rishi Sunak claimed there have been a record number of new homes built in the last year. Answering a question about protecting the green belt, he said: “We must protect our green belt and we are adopting a “brownfield first” strategy. I am pleased that we had a record number of new homes built in the last year, but it is important that we build those homes in the right places.”

This claim was investigated by the due diligence website Full Fact. Full Fact concluded: “We’ve not found any evidence to support this claim in the various official statistics, and Downing Street has not provided any. The most recent published data shows 173,520 new homes were completed in England in the year to June 2022, slightly down on the previous year. Experts told us while recent building figures are higher than in some previous years, they’re generally far lower than records set decades ago.”

Full Fact explained: “When we asked Number 10 what statistics Mr Sunak was referring to, an official pointed us to a range of house-building figures for England, but none of these substantiated his claim. Number 10 has not responded to further queries. “

Verdict

Rishi Sunak’s claim, made in his first appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions, that “we had a record number of new homes built in the last year” was false. Even though the mistake was brought to the attention of Downing Street by the highly respected due diligence organisation Full Fact, Mr Sunak has not corrected the record. According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” 

Rishi Sunak was misleading Parliament. He has not corrected his false statement, despite being given an opportunity to do so, meaning that his remark is in breach of the Ministerial Code. 

When Sunak became Prime Minister he promised to”have integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level” in government. His failure to correct this (in itself) relatively minor error strongly suggests that Sunak is set on carrying on with Boris Johnson’s politics of deceit, and puts an end to hopes that he would put an end to the culture of venality, lies and fabrication which defined the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss premierships.

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Downing Street offering them the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

Additional Note:This error about house building, made in his first PMQs,  quickly became an important test for Sunak. His predecessor Boris Johnson made scores of such fabricated claims, many of them documented on this website, leaving them on the Hansard record even after they’d been exposed as false. Failing to correct the record after misleading Parliament breaches the code of conduct for ministers and, according to the rules, is a resignation offence. 

Had he corrected his relatively minor mistake, Sunak could have sent a signal that, in contrast to Boris Johnson and Liz Truss,  he valued integrity. By choosing not to do so, he was making a statement that he shared Johnson’s contempt for integrity. He has also sent out the powerful signal to his ministerial team that fabrication and cheating will go unpunished. 

Before the arrival of Sunak in Downing Street it was just about possible to mount an argument that the collapse of integrity after 2019 would be explained by Johnson’s deep personal dishonesty rather than a structural failing of the British system of government. This case cannot be made any more. Following Johnson and Truss, Sunak is the third compulsively dishonest Prime Minister in a row. This suggests a systemic rather than individual fault in the Conservative Party, and possibly within the structure of British politics. 

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