The Prime Minister (Temporary Replacement) Bill is set to be debated in the House of Commons this afternoon, coinciding with further fallout from the ‘Partygate’ crisis. The Bill would introduce a new rule which would allow MPs to replace the Prime Minister. It would allow for the powers, and paycheck, of the Prime Minister to pass onto the next in line of succession automatically if the leader is “incapacitated”.
While the Bill was not sparked by the current crisis, the timing of the debate is unfortunate.
Criticism of the Prime Minister has grown in the wake of further revelations about Downing Street parties during lockdown, with many people calling for Mr Johnson to resign.
The latest poll from Savanta ComRes published earlier this week, which interviewed 1,040 UK adults on January 11 2022, showed that two-thirds (66 percent) of adults think that Boris Johnson should resign following the scandal.
This is an increase of 12 percent since their last poll at Christmas.
The polling showed 42 pecent of 2019 Tory voters agreeing that Mr Johnson should resign.
Mr Johnson has also faced calls to resign from four Tory MPs and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross.
This came after a number of allegations emerged over parties at Downing Street during lockdown.
Last week, it was revealed that Downing Street staff were invited to a BYOB drinks party in the Number 10 garden – during the height of lockdown in May 2020 – to “make the most of the lovely weather”.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reported that two separate leaving drinks were held in No10 on April 16 last year, the night before the Queen was forced to sit alone at Prince Philip’s funeral as a result of strict Covid rules.
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Earlier today, Downing Street officials apologised to Buckingham Palace over the incident, with the Prime Minister’s deputy official spokesperson saying: “It’s deeply regrettable that this took place at a time of national mourning, and No10 has apologised to the Palace.
“You’ve heard from the Prime Minister this week, he’s recognised No10 should be held to the highest standards and take responsibility for the things we did not get right.”
The Prime Minister (Temporary Replacement) Bill was introduced in the wake of Mr Johnson’s time spent in hospital with Covid.
Throughout his time in hospital, even when unable to fulfil his duties as Prime Minister, he remained in the role as there was no mechanism with which to temporarily replace him.
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While Dominic Raab was forced to step up into Mr Johnson’s role, it was not a constitutionally defined position.
Even his current role as Deputy Prime Minister has no full definition or constitutional framework.
The new rule sets out an order of priority for ministers to step into the role of the Prime Minister.
The Deputy Prime Minister – a role currently held by Dominic Raab – is first in line.
Rishi Sunak would be second in line under the hierarchy and Liz Truss, as Foreign Secretary, would be third.
While the bill would change the framework for the Prime Minister’s replacement, it makes clear that the Queen would maintain the ultimate power to choose her Prime Minister.
The Private Members’ Bill, which was presented to Parliament on Monday 21 June 2021, will have its Second reading today.
The Bill states it will “make provision for the carrying out of the functions of the Prime Minister in the event that a Prime Minister, or a person temporarily carrying out the functions of the Prime Minister, is incapacitated; and for connected purposes.”