Daily government grinds to a halt as Tory ministers focus on leadership contest
In the meantime, day-to-day governance has “come to a halt”. Boris Johnson’s new ministers are focusing their attention on the Tory Leadership Contestopposition parties have warned.
Scores of planned legislation aimed at solving social problems have been shelved pending the outcome of the race – while a number of cabinet ministers have dropped parliamentary scrutiny sessions to focus on other matters.
Even bids for the government’s “leveling-up” fund have been delayed following the sacking of the department’s top minister Michael Gove – a raid Labor Tory blamed for “chaos, distraction and self-indulgence”.
It comes as the country faces a deepening cost-of-living crisis, a heavy strain on emergency services and an extreme heatwave next week.
On Thursday, Dominic Raab, the youngest cabinet minister, announced he would not attend a committee meeting to question him on the government’s proposed UK Bill of Rights.
MEPs on the joint human rights committee said they were “deeply concerned” that the justice minister would not answer questions about “the most important piece of legal legislation this country has seen in almost a quarter of a century”.
Earlier this week, Home Secretary Priti Patel withdrew from another inquiry session at which she would likely be grilled over the government’s flagship deportation policy in Rwanda, citing “recent government changes”.
Ms Patel also left the father of a woman murdered in Exeter furious after canceling a long-planned meeting with him.
Tony Cox, whose daughter Lorraine, 32, went missing on an August 2020 evening, was due to speak to the Home Secretary about “serious police failures” and “a lack of government action to improve women’s safety”.
Also on Wednesday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, who took office after his predecessor resigned last week, skipped an urgent question in Parliament about mounting pressure on the emergency services.
Labour’s Wes Streeting called the non-appearance a “disgrace”, adding: “That’s not even a government in office, let alone in power.”
Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman Daisy Cooper said on Thursday it was “simply appalling that we’ve heard more from ministers about the Conservative Party’s leadership contest than a genuine national emergency”.
“We have not heard a peep from the Secretary of Health about the emergency services operating on the fringes of what is safe. It’s time for Conservative ministers to put country above party from today,” she added.
Other ministers do not rule out the cancellation of performances either. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is scheduled to appear before the Environmental Review Committee next week to discuss progress in addressing the climate emergency. The Independent has contacted his department to ask if he would attend and was told that while he was scheduled to attend, rosters “are subject to last minute changes”.
Labor also criticized the government on Thursday after it was revealed that ministers’ flagship “leveling” fund has not yet opened to tender – despite a pledge that it would become operational six weeks ago.
Rising Secretary Michael Gove was sacked by Boris Johnson last week as the Prime Minister tried to hold on to power. Municipalities have prepared bids for the second tranche of the adjustment fund, but have not been able to submit them because the schedule has been postponed.
“While Tory leadership candidates parade through Westminster displaying their best Margaret Thatcher impersonations, the government has stalled,” said Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow-leveling secretary.
“For over a decade the Conservatives have been pulling funds from our communities. Now they expect those same communities to wait even longer for only a partial refund. If only they put the same effort into promotion as they put into trying to advance their own careers.
“We can no longer afford the chaos, distraction and self-indulgence of this Conservative Party. We need a fresh start with a Labor government that delivers and that lives up to the ambitions we have for ourselves and our communities.”