Rishi Sunak should resign over Budget leaks, Speaker suggests

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Watch: Commons Speaker suggests ministers should resign for briefing media on Budget before parliament

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has suggested that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and his junior ministers should resign after the Treasury briefed journalists about measures in this week's Budget before an official announcement was made to MPs.

Sir Lindsay, the Commons Speaker, said press releases sent to newspapers at the weekend were "not acceptable", while Dame Eleanor Laing, his deputy, suggested Mr Sunak had broken the ministerial code.

The Treasury sent 16 briefings to reporters about measures in Wednesday's Budget and Spending Review, including a £5.9 billion boost for the NHS.

A press release also revealed that £6.9 billion would be spent on local transport links and £700 million given to the Home Office to shore up Britain's borders. A further £5 billion is expected for new scientific research and £2.6 billion for more places in schools.

Rishi Sunak - Jeff Overs/BBC via Reuters
Rishi Sunak - Jeff Overs/BBC via Reuters

Sir Lindsay and Dame Eleanor said the briefings contravened rules designed to ensure that MPs hear of government policy from ministers in the Commons, not from news organisations.

Dame Eleanor told The Telegraph: "The ministerial code clearly says that when Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of government policy should be made in the first instance in Parliament.

"It is disappointing to say the least that the Treasury ministers have made announcements outside of Parliament and well in advance of the Chancellor's Budget on Wednesday.

"Members of Parliament have to be given the opportunity to hold the Government to account. That is the job to be done on behalf of constituents by Members of Parliament, not by journalists."

Sir Lindsay, who granted an urgent question in Parliament on the issue on Monday afternoon, told MPs: "At one time, ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a Budget – they walked. 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. It's not acceptable."

Edward Argar, the health minister, said the Speaker's comments would be heard "by colleagues in my department and in Her Majesty's Treasury".

The briefings to journalists also caused frustration within other government departments, who bemoaned the fact the releases had the Treasury's branding on them.

A government source described the briefings as "ridiculous" and Mr Sunak's department as a "law unto itself". "Last week I was thinking: 'Wow, pretty good that so little has been briefed out – safe to say I think otherwise this morning," the source said.

Watch: What will be in Rishi Sunak's Budget?

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