Boris Johnson was told off by the speaker of the House of Commons during prime minister’s questions on Wednesday during a rather embarrassing exchange. Sir Lindsay Hoyle spoke over the prime minister when he was tried to dodge a question from Sir Keir Starmer and reminded Johnson: “I’m not going to be challenged.
“You may be the prime minister of this country – but in this house, I’m in charge!” The leader of the opposition – Labour’s leader, Starmer – was pressing the prime minister over former Tory MP Owen Paterson, who was a paid lobbyist for health company Randox and briefly defended by the government before a dramatic U-turn. This firm won government contracts worth almost £600 million without competition, triggering concerns about how Downing Street spent taxpayer’s money. The government briefly tried to get Paterson, who has now resigned, off the hook for breaching lobbying rules but it has since turned into a national row about MPs’ standards and has centred on behaviour in the Tory Party.
"Sit down.…you may be the
Prime Minister of this country, but in this House, I'm in charge"
– Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle #PMQs
— Dr. Jennifer Cassidy (@OxfordDiplomat) November 17, 2021
Starmer asked: “There’s only one way to get to the bottom of this – if he [the prime minister] votes for Labour’s motion this afternoon, that [Randox] investigation can start. Will he vote for it or will he vote for another coverup?” Johnson replied: “I’m very happy to publish all the details of the Randox contract, which is being investigated by the National Audit Office already. “Talking of coverups – I’m sorry Mr Speaker, but we still have not heard why the honourable gentleman will not –” Hoyle interrupted the attempts to talk about Starmer’s own work outside of Parliament when he was a backbencher, urged the prime minister to “sit down” and told him “that’s the end of that” to the cheers of the opposition benches.
Hoyle had already called for order repeatedly in the Commons just 10 minutes into the weekly prime minister’s questions. He also reminded Johnson “although I don’t want to fall out”, this time of the week is for prime minister’s questions, not questions to the opposition about their conduct. “Whether you like it or not, those are the rules of the game that we are into, and and we play by the rules don’t we? And we respect the house so let’s respect the house,” Hoyle said pointedly. When MPs continued to shout across the house at each other, Hoyle told them: “Look, we’ve already lost a dear friend – I want to show that this house has learnt from it.” It’s likely that Hoyle was referring to Tory MP Sir David Amess, who was murdered in October during one of his surgeries for his constituents, but he did not mention any parliamentarians by name. Hoyle continued: “I don’t want each other to be shouted down. I want questions to be respected, I want the public to actually be able to hear the answers – because I’m struggling in this chair. I need no more.”