MP Fails In Bid To Stop New Tory PM Dodging Commons For Six Weeks

Sarah Wollaston, an independent, forced a vote on plans for parliament to go into recess in the week a new Tory leader is elected.

An MP has failed in her bid to stop Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt dodging parliament for six weeks immediately after being named prime minister.

Sarah Wollaston, who quit the Tories over Brexit in February, vowed to oppose the government’s plans to end the Commons term on July 25, in the week that a new leader will be elected.

It would give the new PM around six weeks to bed into Downing Street without having to face prime minister’s questions or votes in a deeply divided Commons.

Wollaston said the timetable was “ridiculous” with the government in crisis as the Brexit deadline looms on October 31 without any sign of a resolution to the impasse in Westminster.

She has written to Number 10 demanding the new PM appears in front of the liaison committee of select committee chairs before summer and vowed on Monday night to object to the government’s motion to approve recess starting on July 25.

Her decision to oppose the July 25 recess date meant a vote was triggered, but MPs voted to adjourn from that date until September 3 by 223 to 25.

“I object to the summer adjournment debate date on the grounds that I don’t think that the newly elected prime minister should have free rein over the summer without the policies of the new government being examined by parliament and by select committee chairs at the liaison committee,” Wollaston had said.

Wollaston sits as an independent having quit the Tories to join Change UK, only to then quit the new party, which is now called the Independent Group for Change
Wollaston sits as an independent having quit the Tories to join Change UK, only to then quit the new party, which is now called the Independent Group for Change
PA Wire/PA Images

Labour was understood to be discussing how to instruct their MPs to vote, with Jeremy Corbyn reserving the right to trigger an immediate no confidence vote in the government once Johnson or Hunt take office.

The Liberal Democrats and SNP said they would back Wollaston.

Wollaston attempted to pin the blame on the Tories in a bid to win over MPs who are concerned about delaying summer recess.

“The Tory party could themselves say they are going to truncate the period to two weeks, particularly if (Johnson) is not prepared to do any media, what’s the point?

“At a time of national crisis we were told by the EU not to waste this extension.

“We’re wasting a whole month of it with this self indulgent psychodrama in the Tory party and less than a quarter of 1% of the population are going to decide the next prime minister anyway.

“So to the rest of us it looks ridiculous.”

According to the Sun, the new Tory leader will be announced on Tuesday July 23 after postal voting of party members ends on Monday July 22.

They will then take over from Theresa May on the afternoon of Wednesday July 24 – crucially after the last PMQs of the term, meaning they will only have to face one day of the Commons sitting on Thursday July 25 before the six-week break.

Later in the Commons, the SNP’s Carol Monaghan urged May to call recess now as MPs have barely any legislation to debate, with parliament returning when the new leader takes office.

But May said: “I think what members of the public will know is that had this House voted for the deal on any one of the opportunities we could now have left the European Union and be dealing with a wide range of other issues.”

Commons Speaker John Bercow meanwhile said he had received assurances from the government that there was “no intention” of preventing the new PM “appearing before the house before this house rises for the summer recess.”

Bercow said Chief Whip Julian Smith had made an unsolicited approach to him to tell him the government “judged it most important” the new PM should appear before parliament before the summer recess.

But Change UK MP Anna Soubry said, despite Bercow’s assurances, there are “very real concerns” the next prime minister will “not even come into this place before we rise for the summer”.