Boris Johnson will be ‘more dangerous’ as interim PM says Welsh MP Chris Bryant
Boris Johnson “will be more dangerous in these next three months” if he stays on as interim PM while a replacement is installed, Welsh Labour MP Chris Bryant has said.
The Rhondda MP said that a new Prime Minister was needed to deal with the “two major crises facing the country at the moment”, including the “cost-of-living crisis” and the situation in Ukraine and across Nato.
He added: “There’s a real possibility that a Government might have to deploy further troops in the next few months, for proper reasons. A caretaker Government can’t do that, simply can’t, the rules forbid them from doing that.
“Yet I fear that this Prime Minister, the disgraced, deselected Prime Minister, will be more dangerous in these next three months, if he’s allowed to have another three months, than he’s been in the last three years. So, can he please, please make sure that we have a proper Government soon, in other words before the summer recess?”
Responding, Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis said: “Well, we have a proper Government and a proper Government continues.”
He added: “It is this Government which has been getting on with the business of representing the UK in international fora and have led the way on Ukraine and when it comes to dealing with the global cost-of-living crisis, have been doing that too.”
Conservative MPs meanwhile have pleaded for Boris Johnson to be speedily replaced as Prime Minister and for there to be no snap general election.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Ellis was hauled to the Commons by Labour to explain the “functioning of government” following a chaotic 48-hour period which has seen more than 50 MPs resign from government or party roles.
Mr Ellis insisted the “Government continues to function in the meantime” as civil servants carry out their duties across all departments.
But Tory backbenchers demanded a swift transition despite Mr Johnson hoping to remain as Prime Minister until a successor is in place, expected to be by the time of the Conservative Party conference in October.
Former minister Sir Bob Neill told the Commons: “Whatever one’s views on the Prime Minister, and I accept the importance of the continuity of the Government, in fact there’s no need for a general election at all and there’s plenty of precedent for that.”
He added that there is a “serious question mark” over “how long a caretaker prime minister can remain in place” given concerns about ensuring effective government, adding: “Might it be in everybody’s interests to speed up the transition as much as possibly can be?”
Mr Ellis replied: “He’s right, a general election is not constitutionally necessary. The Prime Minister was before the Liaison Committee yesterday and said as much, and we will await events. I cannot pre-empt the Prime Minister’s statement.”
Conservative MP Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) said: “I’m glad, without wishing to pre-empt the Prime Minister, he’s finally come to his senses and will be making his statement shortly.
“I’m very, very sad in the last 48 hours so many honourable and right honourable colleagues felt the need to resign from government.
“If those people will not serve this Prime Minister, could I ask (Mr Ellis) to convey to the Prime Minister that it will not be tenable for him to continue as a caretaker if he cannot fill the ministerial appointments he needs to.”
Mr Ellis replied: “I am sure my friend’s comment has been noted.”
Conservative MP Matthew Offord (Hendon) focused on ministers who had resigned after having “enthusiastically supported decisions”, such as backing former colleague Owen Paterson in a standards row, saying it showed “how they were unfit to serve as ministers in the beginning”.
He added: “But the governance of this country cannot be allowed to fail. So, I’d like to ask when are these vacancies going to be filled? They must be filled immediately and we cannot allow decisions to be made by other secretaries of state from other departments.
“The country deserves better than that.”
Conservative former cabinet minister John Whittingdale also said: “Can I invite my right honourable friend to pre-empt the Opposition by making clear that Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, Tony Blair, Theresa May all left office and were succeeded by new leaders and new prime ministers without there being a general election and that the ship of state sails on?”
The Cabinet Office minister replied: “He is, of course, completely correct.”
But Tory former minister Sir Christopher Chope said: “May I thank the Prime Minister for his great service to our nation, and also to the people of Ukraine. And I think people will rue the day that he was forced to resign.
“Can I say to my right honourable friend, isn’t there a lot to be said for having a smaller Cabinet, fewer ministers and hardly any parliamentary private secretaries? And can we have a pilot to show how successful that’s going to be?”
Mr Ellis replied: “Well, he makes a perfectly interesting point, but it’s somewhat outside the range of my responsibilities.”
In his initial reply to Labour’s urgent question, Mr Ellis said: “Any transitional arrangements have always been made to allow for the business of government to continue.
“There are constitutional mechanisms in place to make sure that can happen. We await the Prime Minister’s statement, but the House should be reassured that the Government continues to function in the meantime.”
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “I hate to break it to the minister but we don’t have a functioning Government.
“It will be good news for the country that the Prime Minister is to announce his resignation. He was always unfit for office. He has overseen scandal, fraud and waste on an industrial scale.
“But the chaos of the last three days is more than just petty Tory infighting. These actions have serious consequences for the running of our country.”
Ms Rayner added: “Our British national security is at risk too, not least because the Prime Minister thinks he can stay on.”
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