Wellingborough Peter Bone wants to avoid an argument about who is in charge if Boris Johnson or a future prime minister is incapacitated. In the United States the public knows that the vice president will take the reins but in the UK there is no requirement for a prime minister to appoint a deputy. Mr Bone wants PMs to have to nominate a deputy so there is no doubt about who is running the Government – and so he or she can prepare for this emergency role.
His private member’s bill is designed to ensure there will not be a row among leading members of the cabinet, aides and civil servants when the country needs leadership.
Mr Bone said: “You don’t want an argument at the top of the Government about who’s in control in the middle of an emergency and that’s the reason for having this line of succession.”
If the PM was unable to return to the role the temporary prime minister would continue in post until the party had the chance to choose a new leader.
He said: “There would be no doubt, even in the most horrendous attack you could possibly think of. Assuming the cabinet got blown up or something terrible like that, there would still be somebody in charge.
“It’s in that sort of situation that you really do need to have someone in charge. You don’t want to even spend a few hours talking about who it is going to be; you want to know instantly who’s in charge, and that’s what my Bill does.”
Last April Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab took control when the prime minister was hospitalised. Mr Johnson had chosen not to appoint a formal deputy PM but gave Mr Raab the additional title of “first secretary of state”.
Britain has not had an official deputy prime minister since Sir Nick Clegg held the position during the 2010-15 Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.
Mr Bone claims support for an official succession system has grown since Mr Johnson’s time in hospital with Covid-19.
He said: “It seems to me it just makes plain common sense and I don’t know why we should cloud in mystery what happens, especially after we saw the very thing that happened to Boris… I think more colleagues agree now because before it seemed an intellectual argument. Now it’s a reality.”