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Ian Blackford draws wrath of Speaker Lindsay Hoyle after accusing ministers of ‘lying’

Ian Blackford joined the backlash after the latest claims emerged.

The row over the Cabinet Office’s use of Covid cash for Union polling ratcheted up a gear today, as Ian Blackford used a Commons debate to accuse ministers of “lying” to the public.

The accusation drew the wrath of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle who ordered the comment, which is not in keeping with parliamentary language, to be struck from record.

The Commons debate comes after High Court papers revealed that Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove instructed civil servants to commission polls on “attitudes to the UK Union” during the height of the pandemic.

The polls were commissioned as part of an emergency £560,000 contract given to Public First for pandemic research.

Michael Gove.

Mr Blackford has urged the cabinet secretary to launch an independent investigation into “blatant misuse of public money for political purposes”.

Speaking in the Commons, he said: “Just as the prime minister failed to act to sack his health secretary, he has failed to act on this scandal too, but no matter how hard they might try to sweep this under the carpet this scandal isn’t going away.

“This morning I have written to the cabinet secretary urging him to launch an independent investigation into this blatant misuse of public money for political purposes.

“If the UK Government has nothing to hide, will the minster join me in supporting this investigation by the cabinet secretary and will she co-operate with it?”

He added: “The truth and this Government are distant strangers and that comes as no surprise when we remember the prime minister’s been sacked not once but twice for lying.”

Cabinet Office minister Julia Lopez told MPs that the contract “did not relate to constitutional campaigning and any suggestion government carries out party political research is entirely false.”

She added: “How we spend taxpayers’ money matters very deeply to public trust. It’s true to say that the Government faced a number of challenges at the height of the pandemic and I think we should be open about those.”

Ms Lopez added that the “non-sensitive” elements of the work would be published “in due course” and said: “Separately the Cabinet Office carries out polling on attitudes towards the Union on a regular basis but this work was paused during the Coronavirus crisis.

“We are aware that the Scottish Government also conducted polling on attitudes in relation to COVID, and we did not see this research, and nor would we expect to.”

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