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MPs split on party lines over Johnson's bid to cut Parliamentary sittings

PUBLISHED: 14:35 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:28 28 August 2019

Dr Dan Poulter and Dr Therese Coffey supported Boris Johnson's leadership bid. Dr Poulter said it was a natural time to start a new Parliamentary session, Picture: PAUL GEATER

Dr Dan Poulter and Dr Therese Coffey supported Boris Johnson's leadership bid. Dr Poulter said it was a natural time to start a new Parliamentary session, Picture: PAUL GEATER

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The region's MPs are split on party lines about whether Boris Johnson's decision to have a Queen's Speech in October is a constitutional outrage aimed at forcing a no-deal Brexit - or just normal parliamentary procedure.

Suffolk Conservative MPs Dr Dan Poulter and Peter Aldous both agreed that there was nothing unusual in having a Queen's Speech in the autumn, especially when there is a new prime minister at the helm - and that the number of parliamentary days being lost to the process was not exceptional.

West Suffolk MP and Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not respond to our message asking for a comment - but at the start of the Conservative leadership election in June he wrote to his fellow candidates urging them to reject proroguing Parliament to get Brexit over the line.

And he tweeted this letter to let Conservative MPs and party members know how he felt on the issue. He later dropped out of the race and backed Mr Johnson's candidacy.

However Ipswich Labour MP Sandy Martin said Mr Johnson's move proved the need for a written constitution for the UK - warning that it could lead to a general election immediately after leaving the EU, which could be the worst possible time for it.

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Dr Poulter, from Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: "It strikes me as fairly usual custom and practice to have a Queen's Speech after a new prime minister comes in with a new programme. In those circumstances it is normal to prorogue Parliament, and that will only happen for a few days."

Waveney MP Mr Aldous added: "We are talking about losing about four days of Parliamentary time. There will still be time for the opposition to put down a confidence vote before then. But I'm not at all sure they would win that at the moment."

Mr Martin doubts whether it is now possible to prevent a no-deal Brexit because time is running out. He said: "This shows the need, whatever happens on Brexit, for this country to have a written constitution. The government is able to make decisions like this even though it has no majority.

"If we are going to get an extension to Article 50 the only way the EU will do that is if we have a second referendum with staying in the EU as one of the options - and I would campaign very strongly for that."

Harwich and North Essex Conservative MP Sir Bernard Jenkin - a keen Brexiteer - said he saw nothing wrong with Mr Johnson's move. "Parliament has already voted to leave on October 31 - we did that earlier in the year under Theresa May.

"Now it is about time we had a new session of Parliament. The current one has been going for more than two years. We have a new prime minister who has new priorities and he wants to set them out."

Other Suffolk MPs have been contacted by text or voice messages inviting them to respond.

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