Minister: 'Sleaze claims aren't specific to Tories, I've only known Labour MPs go to jail'

14 November 2021, 13:59 | Updated: 14 November 2021, 14:58

Ben Wallace has insisted Boris Johnson should not apologise for MPs' behaviour
Ben Wallace has insisted Boris Johnson should not apologise for MPs' behaviour. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

The Conservative defence secretary has insisted Boris Johnson should not say sorry over "Tory sleaze" claims, instead choosing to swipe at Labour over its MPs' jail sentences and the SNP's reaction to drinking allegations.

Asked by LBC's Iain Dale if Boris Johnson should apologise for some of his MPs' behaviour – including to the Conservatives themselves – Ben Wallace insisted it was not a "party political issue".

Instead, he came out swinging at Labour, days after he was accused of trying to distract from negative headlines.

He has been alleging boozy behaviour from opposition politicians during a Remembrance event.

"It's not a party matter, Iain. It's interesting – the only MPs I've known who've gone to jail in my time are Labour MPs for expenses fiddling, I think six or seven of them," he said.

Five Labour MPs and two Tory peers were jailed for their part in the expenses scandal.

Read more: Zahawi concedes 'mistakes' were made in handling of Owen Paterson sleaze shambles

Watch: David Lammy hits out against trolls criticising his 'second job'

Mr Wallace went on: "It's not a party political issue, this is about the regard MPs have for the rules, the sense of clarity they wish to follow, as they should follow, and the sense of integrity.

"I don't think it's for the PM to apologise on behalf of every single MP, I think it's for those MPs to make their position clear.

"I know one of my colleagues apologised today for failure to declare something."

'The only MPs I know who've gone to jail were Labour MPs'

Mr Wallace's comments follow outrage at Owen Paterson, who resigned after being found to have breached lobbying rules.

The Government tried to block his suspension but U-turned after an outcry at that decision.

The affair has since drawn focus to MPs' earnings outside of their Parliamentary work. These include Sir Geoffrey Cox, who has not been found in breach of any rules but earned large sums of money helping the British Virgin Islands during a Foreign Office probe.

It led to questions about how much focus elected representatives put on working for their constituents when they earn large sums of cash from other roles. Sir Geoffrey insisted he prioritised his job as a politician.

In recent days, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross was reported to have failed to declare £28,000 in earnings outside his Westminster job.

Read more: 'Stupid question': Iain Duncan Smith shrugs off concerns of Tory sleaze

Wallace calls on MPs to have 'integrity' following Gibraltar report

Mr Wallace said voters will ultimately judge their MPs and that he was passionate about transparency.

He also doubled down on allegations last week that Labour MP Charlotte Nichols and SNP MPs Drew Hendry and David Linden got drunk on a flight back from a Remembrance event in Gibraltar.

Ms Nichols said her medication had affected her tolerance of alcohol while SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the suggestions of an overly boozy flight were "completely false and unfounded, and some may say is an attempt by Conservatives to distract attention from their own travails".

But Mr Wallace told Iain there was "no smear" and that "MPs need some integrity, what those guys should do is put their hands up, and say you know what, we were out of line, we were whatever… we apologise for any inconvenience for what happened, rather than jumping to a political allegation of smear."

He said the way it has been handled by the SNP would leave a "nasty aftertaste" for military personnel he claimed witnessed the incident, and added that "they will realise they don't get any integrity from the SNP any more than anyone else".

Responding to Labour taking a six point lead in one recent poll, following sleaze allegations, he said the Government has some way to go and will be marked on whether it improved people's lives.

"There are events that are driving today's headlines – allegations that we see about sleaze, and the second jobs and the Owen Paterson affair is obviously driving understandably today's anxiousness," Mr Wallace admitted.

Labour and the SNP were asked for comment in response to Mr Wallace's comments.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Donald Trump was shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday

Gunman behind Donald Trump’s assassination attempt 'had explosives in his car' and used firearm 'purchased by father'

President Joe Biden addresses the nation from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington

'We're not enemies': Biden calls for unity after Trump assassination attempt as he delivers rare speech from Oval Office

Prince William and Prince George at the Euro 2024 final

Prince William and Prince George put on animated display as they watch rollercoaster Euro 2024 final against Spain

Prince William offered a consoling message after England's loss

'It just wasn’t meant to be': Prince William offers consoling message after England's loss in Euro 2024 final

Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice

Amanda Abbington recalls 'tough and horrible' Strictly experience as she was left 'vomiting and crying' after rehearsals

Fans have been left in despair

Devastated England fans left holding their heads in despair after heartbreaking 2-1 defeat at Euros final

England lost to Spain in the Euro 2024 final

England's heartbreak as last-gasp Spanish goal seals historic Euro 2024 final defeat

Prince William and Prince George at the Euro 2024 final

Smiling Prince George attends Euro 2024 final with Prince William as England face off against Spain

Kate with Charlotte at Wimbledon

Princess Kate looks radiant in purple as she presents Wimbledon trophy at men's final

Corey Comperatore was killed during the Trump rally attack.

Pictured: Man killed in shooting at Trump rally as he 'tried to shield family from bullets'

Carlos Alcaraz has retained his Wimbledon title

Carlos Alcaraz retains Wimbledon title as he beats Novak Djokovic for second year in a row

England are facing Spain in the final

England 1-2 Spain: Heartbreak for England as Spain win Euros 2024

Melania Trump shared an emotional statement on the incident

Melania Trump breaks silence after attempted assassination of husband Donald at rally

The wife and two daughters of racing commentator John Hunt were killed at their Hertfordshire home

Bereaved racing commentator John Hunt has fundraiser set up after wife and two daughters killed

Princess Kate has made just her second appearance since her cancer diagnosis - as she prepares to bestow the Wimbledon men's singles trophy at the All England Club.

Princess Kate arrives at Wimbledon as crowd applauds for royal's second engagement since cancer shock

Donald Trump was shot at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania yesterday

‘We will FEAR NOT’: Trump urges Americans to ‘stay united’ after attempted assassination