A succession list detailing who replaces an incapacitated prime minister should be guaranteed in law, an MP has said, amid concerns for the health of Boris Johnson.
Conservative Peter Bone welcomed the government’s foresight to have foreign secretary and first secretary of state Dominic Raab as Johnson’s formal deputy after the PM was admitted to intensive care following a worsening of his coronavirus symptoms.
But the MP for Wellingborough said it is unclear what would happen if Raab should also fall ill, adding there is a need for legal certainty.
Bone’s Prime Minister (Temporary Replacement) bill could be debated in the Commons this summer and he hopes MPs will support his proposal, which he has moved several times previously over the years.
Bone told the PA news agency: “The first thing I’d want to say is my thoughts and prayers, and I’m sure those of my constituents, are for Boris and Carrie [Symonds, Johnson’s fiancée] and hoping they will make a speedy recovery.
“The second point is there had been an ad hoc arrangement put in place so that Dominic Raab became effectively prime minister, he’s effectively prime minister at the moment, and I’m pleased that happened so there isn’t an immediate crisis.
“But what my bill tries to do is set out in law the succession – it could have said foreign secretary, chancellor, and so on – as there has to be a question mark if Dominic Raab was to fall ill, who would take over?
“It’s to give certainty to the situation and it is what it says, a temporary prime minister replacement.
“As in the circumstances with Boris, who will I expect be off work for I guess a number of weeks while he recovers, he will then go back to being prime minister as soon as he gets better, but in between people need to know who’s in charge.
“Thankfully the government had sense to put this in place but if they hadn’t have done that, we don’t know who would have been in charge.
“There should be a formal situation, like there is in the United States of America – where you know if the president is incapacitated temporarily then who is the next person who takes over.”
Bone said he had never understood the UK’s reluctance to take similar steps as emergency situations require an immediate answer over who is in charge.
He went on: “I think my Bill is listed for July 10. I hope we will make some more progress this time and people will support it, but the key thing is for Boris to get better and I shall be clapping (in support) at 8 o’clock tonight.”
A previous version of Bone’s bill, then known as the Prime Minister (Replacement) bill, included a succession list.
This read: deputy prime minister, home secretary, defence secretary, foreign secretary, the chancellor, transport secretary, health secretary, business secretary, justice secretary, communities secretary, education secretary, environment secretary, work and pensions secretary, Cabinet Office minister, paymaster general, culture secretary, attorney general, energy secretary, international development secretary, Commons leader, Lords leader, Scottish secretary, Welsh secretary, Northern Ireland secretary.
Under this proposal debated in November 2013, a caveat was inserted to ensure if there was a coalition government then the successor must be from the same political party as the PM.
This was designed to stop Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg, who was then deputy prime minister, taking power in a crisis.
Bone said he had been raising the issue since the days of the New Labour governments, adding: “The closest I ever got to why they don’t do it is ‘If I told you why I’d be breaking the Official Secrets Act’, so I’ve no idea what that meant.”
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?