John Penrose

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Person.png John Penrose   Twitter WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
John Penrose.jpg
BornJohn David Penrose
22 June 1964
SpouseDido Harding
PartyConservative Party (UK)
British politician who wants government to assign a mandatory "truth score" to every online commenter.

Employment.png UK Anti-Corruption Champion

In office
11 December 2017 - 6 June 2022
Appointed byBoris Johnson

John Penrose is a British politician serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Weston-super-Mare since the 2005 General Election. A member of the Conservative Party, Penrose served as Minister of State for Northern Ireland from 2018 to 2019.[1] He was previously Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport from 2010 to 2012 and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury from 2014 to 2016.[2]

John Penrose is married to Baroness Harding, chair of NHS Improvement, NHS Test and Trace and NIHP. The couple met when they were employed by management consultants McKinsey.[3]

COVID cronyism

In March 2021, Boris Johnson's anti-corruption tsar, John Penrose, was criticised for using a keynote speech at an international conference to defend the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Penrose, who is the husband of Dido Harding, the NHS Test and Trace boss, made the comments amid mounting accusations of cronyism in the Conservative Party and in the wake of last month’s court ruling that the government acted unlawfully over transparency.

The government has also faced widespread criticism over Harding’s NHS Test and Trace programme, after a string of multi-million pound contracts were handed to companies without competition.

Speaking at the OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum on Tuesday 22 March, Penrose defended the government’s efforts – and appeared to blame transparency measures for slowing down the pandemic response.[4]


On 6 June 2022, John Penrose said the PM Boris Johnson had broken the ministerial code over his response to Sue Gray's report into Partygate and should “stand aside” as Tory leader:

“The only fair conclusion to draw from the Sue Gray report is that you have breached a fundamental principle of the ministerial code – a clear resigning matter.

“But your letter to your independent adviser on the ministerial code ignores this absolutely central, non-negotiable issue completely. And, if it had addressed it, it is hard to see how it could have reached any other conclusion than that you had broken the code.”

Penrose added: “As a result, I’m afraid it wouldn’t be honourable or right for me to remain as your anti-corruption champion after reaching this conclusion, nor for you to remain as Prime Minister either.

“I hope you will stand aside so we can look to the future and choose your successor.”[5]

Truth score

In July 2022, Penrose proposed an addition to the UK’s internet censorship bill, “The Online Safety Bill”. The proposal says that every user that produces online content, including “comments and reviews” and who receives a certain number of online views, which is to be determined by the UK communications regulator, should have their content indexed and assigned a truth score. The person’s speech is then to be “displayed in a way which allows any user easily to reach an informed view of the likely factual accuracy of the content at the same time as they encounter it.” “The purpose of this section is to reduce the risk of harm to users of regulated services caused my (sic) disinformation or misinformation[6]


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