Tuesday , October 20 2020

U-turn from Matt Hancock as he defends suspending parliament


Matt Hancock says he “didn’t raise any concerns” about Boris Johnson’s plans to prorogue parliament, despite being against the idea during his leadership campaign.

The health secretary said back in June at the launch of his bid to become Conservative leader that shutting down parliament would be an insult to D-Day veterans.

“[Proroguing parliament] goes against everything that those men who waded on to those beaches fought and died for and I will not have it,” he had said.

But, speaking at the Big Tent Ideas Festival in London, Mr Hancock said he did not have an issue with Boris Johnson’s plan when the prime minister told the cabinet during a phone call.

Mr Hancock said he had been against shutting down parliament until after the UK left the EU on 31 October, but that the prime minister’s plans had a “substantive difference”.

Matt Hancock and Amber Rudd

Suspend parliament? ‘I will not have it!’

Currently, parliament will be suspended from the 9 September until 14 October, cutting down the number of days the prime minister’s opponents have to stop a no-deal Brexit.

“When you say that there is a significant reduction [in the number of days MPs have to debate Brexit legislation], it’s just not true,” said Mr Hancock.

“If you look at the facts, we’ve had over 500 hours of parliamentary debate on Brexit. It hasn’t got us anywhere.

“The proposal on the table that I opposed so strongly was that parliament wouldn’t have that chance [to debate the terms of the UK’s exit].”

But in June, Mr Hancock published a letter, calling on his fellow Conservative Party leadership candidates to “rule out” proroguing parliament.

“I believe that, as committed parliamentarians, attempting to prorogue parliament to deliver a no-deal Brexit is neither serious nor credible,” he wrote.

“A policy on Brexit to prorogue parliament would mean the end of the Conservative Party as a serious party of government.”

Proroguing Parliament undermines parliamentary democracy and risks a general election. I rule it out and call on all candidates to do the same pic.twitter.com/4aaAK3Tq8M

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) June 6, 2019

Mr Hancock also told the festival that the cabinet had been informed of the prime minister’s plans after they became public knowledge.

He also said he believed that Boris Johnson will strike a deal with the European Union, despite the bloc remaining adamant that the Withdrawal Agreement will not be re-opened.

The health secretary is not the only cabinet member to come under fire for a change in their position on the proroguing of parliament.

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Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd told Sky’s Sophy Ridge back in June that suspending parliament was a “ridiculous suggestion” and the idea of involving the Queen in political procedure was “completely wrong”.

Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, was asked in June during the campaign if Mr Johnson had ruled out proroguing or suspending parliament if he became prime minister.

She confirmed that was the case, adding that doing so would be an “archaic manoeuvre”.

Chancellor Sajid Javid also was opposed to the suggestion. A now-deleted tweet from his leadership campaign team shows him arguing against the idea during a Channel 4 debate.

In it, he said: “I think to suggest that you would suspend parliament, and put an end to our sovereign democracy, just to suit some goal, to implement democracy, it’s just not right and we can’t do that.”

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