Lying in politics law and statutory duty of accountability for public bodies needed, says Liz Saville Roberts MP

Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP has today (Tuesday 21 May) reiterated her party’s call for a lying in politics law in light of the Infected Blood Inquiry.

She said a fundamental change was need to bring about a cultural shift away from the “knee-jerk reaction” to “lie and deny justice in order to protect the state” towards an “incentive to tell the truth”.

The Infected Blood Inquiry published on Monday found that the infected blood scandal was mad worse by a “chilling” NHS and government cover-up.

The report said that the “defensive culture” in the civil service and government should be ended, and the government should consider whether to continue to rely on the current non-statutory duties in the civil service code and ministerial code, as well as the powers of courts, inquests and inquiries where relevant, to find out the truth.

Plaid Cymru has long called for a law to ban politicians from wilfully misleading the public.

In 2007, Adam Price MS, then MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, presented a lying in politics Bill in response to deception around the Iraq War.

In 2022, Liz Saville Roberts MP introduced the Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill which would create offences in relation to the publication of false or misleading statements for elected representatives.

Given the Infected Blood Inquiry chair, Professor Brian Langstaff’s criticisms of both government and civil servants for a lack of transparency, Ms Saville Roberts said that both a legally enforceable duty of candour for public bodies was needed, as well as a law to prohibit politicians from wilfully misleading the public.

Since April 2023, all NHS organisations in Wales have been legally required to adopt the Duty of Candour. This requires them to be open and transparent with people who experience harm whilst receiving health care.

Liz Saville Roberts MP called for the UK Government to introduce the same principle for all public bodies under its remit, as well as adopting her Elected Representatives (Prohibition of Deception) Bill.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Liz Saville Roberts MP said:

“Christopher Thomas of Pen Llŷn was one of the first patients with haemophilia to be treated by Professor Arthur Bloom of Cardiff.

 “Christopher died in 1990 aged 46. His wife Judith describes how they felt they felt the haematologist to be a friend of the family because they were obviously visiting in hospital for treatment.

 “Yet, Professor Bloom’s name is mentioned repeatedly in Sir Brian Langstaff’s report as someone who ‘disastrously overinfluenced the Department of Health and Social Security in the 1970s and 1980s’.

 “The minister has mentioned a range of institutional failures. Surely he must agree that today, we should indeed hear more of the details of how legislation in relation to duty of candour will be brought forward. If he can’t give us details today, can he let us know when?”

The Paymaster General, John Glen MP, was non-committal on the question of a legally enforceable duty of candour, responding that it will ““will take a bit of time” to “come up with a serious response” to the report.

Speaking after the session, Liz Saville Roberts MP added:

“Today is a day for the families to get clarity on long-awaited compensation. But we cannot allow the other recommendations to be fall from parliamentary scrutiny.

 “It’s clear that we need a fundamental cultural shift to ensure that politicians and public bodies have an irrevocable incentive to tell the truth about failures, replacing the current self-preservation instinct to cover them up. This requires a statutory duty of candour for all public servants, as recommended by the Infected Blood Inquiry’s final report.

 “We also must revisit Plaid Cymru’s decades-long call for a law to criminalise lying by politicians. This call was first made by Adam Price in the mid-2000s when he attempted to impeach Tony Blair over lies told about the Iraq War.

 “This is not party political. The picture painted by the Infected Blood Inquiry is one of a knee-jerk reaction across public life to lie and deny justice in order to protect the state. We need fundamental changes to achieve this shift. That’s why Plaid Cymru is reiterating our call for a law to ban lying in politics.”