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Replacement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Volume 720: debated on Monday 17 October 2022

(Urgent Question): To ask the Prime Minister to make a statement on the replacement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the current economic situation.

With apologies to the Leader of the Opposition and the House, the Prime Minister is detained on urgent business—[Interruption.]—and they will have to make do—[Interruption.]

I afraid you will have to make do with me, Mr Speaker.

The Prime Minister has taken the decision to appoint my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), one of the longest serving and most experienced parliamentarians, as her Chancellor. Their overriding priority is to restore financial stability in the face of volatile global conditions. We will take whatever tough decisions are necessary, and have made changes to the growth plan, which the Chancellor is waiting to update the House on as soon as this urgent question finishes.

I thank the right hon. Lady for answering the question put to the Prime Minister; I guess that under this Tory Government everybody gets to be Prime Minister for 15 minutes.

The country is in an economic crisis made in Downing Street. Because they have lost all credibility, Government borrowing costs have soared, mortgage rates have ballooned, markets need reassuring, and there is long-term damage that cannot be undone. Once you have crashed the car at 100 mph, you have damaged it for good and will be paying much more on your insurance for years to come. It is working people who will pay, left wondering if they can afford to stay in their homes—if their hopes of owning a home have not already been crushed.

Now, it is time for leaders to lead, but where is the Prime Minister? She is hiding away, dodging questions, scared of her own shadow; the lady’s not for turning—up! Now, it is time to be honest about the mistakes they have made, but what does the Prime Minister say? She says, “My vision is right, my mission remains, I sacked my Chancellor but I can’t tell you why.” Now is a time for consistent messaging. But what do we get? A Prime Minister saying, “Absolutely no spending reductions,” a Chancellor saying that there will be cuts, a Prime Minister saying that she is in charge, and a Chancellor who thinks that he is the chief executive officer and the Prime Minister is just the chair. How can Britain get the stability it needs when all the Government offers is grotesque chaos? How can Britain get the stability it needs when instead of leadership we have this utter vacuum? How can Britain get the stability it needs when the Prime Minister has no mandate from her party and no mandate from the country?

Let me start by saying that I am quietly confident that the Leader of the Opposition will not have his 15 minutes of fame. With regard to questions raised on economic policy, I will defer to the Chancellor. Hon. Members will want time to question him fully and hear the detail, and I do not wish to eat into that time. Our constituents will want to hear about the issues facing them—their bills, mortgages and benefits, and their businesses—so I had wondered what else the Leader of the Opposition wished to discuss in an urgent question that would delay such an important statement.

In his urgent question, the Leader of the Opposition paints a contrast, so let me paint one, too. The decision taken by our Prime Minister would have been a very tough one politically and personally, yet she took it, and she did so because it was manifestly in the national interest that she did. She did not hesitate to do so because her focus is on the wellbeing of every one of our citizens. It was the right thing to do, and whether you agree with it or not, it took courage to do it.

In contrast, what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has done today, at this most serious moment, took no courage or judgment or regard to the national interest. Three years ago, when this Parliament was paralysed by Brexit, a general election would have been in the national interest, and he blocked one. Today, when the country needs some stability and urgent legislation to put through cost-of-living measures, and while we are in the middle of an economic war levelled at every school and hospital in the country, he calls for one and for weeks of disruption and delay.

We will take no lectures from the right hon. and learned Gentleman on working in the national interest. I could point to his frustration of our leaving the EU and his campaigning for a second referendum. I could point to his support for the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) and his positions on NATO, his arguments against our leaving lockdown, or his support for our involvement with the EU vaccines agency, all of which were against the national interest. Nor will we take any lectures on consistency of policy or messaging. He has abandoned every single one of his pledges made during the Labour leadership contest—[Interruption.]

Order. I think the country wants to hear what is being said and, if I cannot hear, they cannot hear. Can we please listen to the Leader of the House? I am sure that she is coming to the end now.

Order. Mr Perkins, if you want to go and get a cup of tea, I am more than happy to pay for it.

That is why, even on our toughest and most disappointing days, I will always be proud to sit on the Government side of the House. We will put the national interest first. Now, let us get on and hear from the Chancellor.

I am not sure I am more important, but can I say to my right hon. Friend that the Leader of the Opposition has reversed most of the things he said he would do if he became leader? If Members have a short memory, only nine months ago, some of his senior colleagues were circling to see whether they could be a better Leader of the Opposition than him. When circumstances change, it is right for policy to change and, if what is announced today leads to lower inflation, a lower cost of borrowing and a greater chance that this country can get back to prosperity, it is worth doing.

I agree with the Father of the House. The right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) has reversed his position on economic justice, social justice, climate change, promoting peace and human rights, common ownership, defending migrants’ rights, strengthening the rights of workers and trade unions, radical devolution of power, wealth and opportunity, equality and effective opposition to the Tories.

Today, Scotland’s First Minister set out an optimistic, ambitious and credible economic plan for Scotland’s future—a leader who spent over an hour setting out and answering questions on the positive case for our country’s independence. That is in stark contrast to a Prime Minister hiding in Downing Street, terrified to answer for the mess she has made—the mess that will cause so much harm to all our constituents. Mr Speaker, I am going to keep this short and to the point. Can the Leader of the House tell us: where on earth is the Prime Minister? If she does not even have the backbone to show up here today, is there really any point in her showing up here again? Surely, time’s up. She needs to go and let the people decide.

I am glad to hear the First Minister of Scotland made a statement. I am hoping that shortly the House will be able to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to set out the Government’s position. I would be interested to know if the First Minister’s statement included the tax dividend to every Scottish household of being a member of the United Kingdom.

In the last four weeks, the facts are that the global economic conditions we face have worsened. [Interruption.] The Opposition may not want to acknowledge it, but that is the truth. Inflation rates have increased around the world and in the United States they are now the highest they have been since 1982. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should always be prepared to make the policy changes we need in the best interests of the people we represent?

What we have seen in the last month is one of the largest humiliations this country has ever experienced, and it is directly as a result of the current Prime Minister’s agenda, which she set out to the tiny sliver of UK people who voted for her to be the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House is perhaps auditioning to be the next one along, because surely she knows that this humiliated Prime Minister simply cannot last.

As I said in my opening remarks, this will have been a very difficult decision for the Prime Minister and she has taken it because it is in the national interest. She should have all our support in doing so.

If I was the financial director of a plc and went to the board and suggested that we cut our revenues greatly and we would not put in an increase next year, the director of the board would look at me and say, “That’s good. So, Peter, what are the spending implications and how is it going to be funded?” Unfortunately for the previous Chancellor, he did not provide those answers. We had a statement lasting two and a half hours, instead of a Budget that should have been debated for 23 or 24 hours. Will the Leader of the House admit that that is the reason the Chancellor had to go? He produced a part-Budget, not the whole thing.

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. I hope that we will soon be able to hear from the Chancellor on these important matters and concerns for Members of the House and their constituents.

The previous Prime Minister shattered the public’s trust in the Government. The current Prime Minister has trashed the British economy. Meanwhile, Conservative MPs have sat there and let it happen. For the damage and pain that they have caused across our country, will the Leader of the House, on behalf of her whole party, address the people and businesses of our great country and apologise?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. We have made this change for a reason. I understand that people want certainty and reassurance about their bills, their businesses and their benefits. I am sorry that the events leading to the changes today have added to the concerns about the major volatility that already existed in the economy. That is why we are putting it right today, and that is what the Chancellor will speak about in his announcement shortly.

The country is waiting to hear from the Chancellor on issues of fiscal responsibility, market stability and sustainable growth. Does my right hon. Friend agree that what this entirely unnecessary debate shows is that the Opposition are putting politics before the interests of our constituents?

The Leader of the House said yesterday that what the country needs is stability and not a “soap opera”. I agree, so will she explain why the Prime Minister is still in office when it is clear to almost everyone, including many of the colleagues of the Leader of the House behind her today, that she is no longer in power?

I think it is incredibly important today that the Chancellor is allowed to set out the policy changes that he has made to provide answers to the House and the country, so we can restore some certainty to the growth programme. That is what will help stability, and I ask all hon. Members to consider, in their questioning to me, how those questions will help that scenario.

Pragmatism and dealing with the world as it is are the traditional strengths of Conservatives in Government, and the fiscal changes being announced by the new Chancellor today are entirely correct. Does my right hon. Friend agree, though, that the very last thing that is needed right now—the last thing that mortgage holders, people struggling to get on the housing ladder and people who are worried about paying their fuel bills need—is further political instability upsetting markets?

My right hon. Friend is right. We also need to put through legislation to enact some of the measures that will help with the cost of living issues that people are facing. We need time on the Floor of the House to do that and we need to give the public some certainty about the future.

On the turbulence in the markets, and the reason that the Chancellor was replaced, it is not just about tax; it is also about trust. Trust in the British Government comes from the knowledge that they enjoy the consent of the British people. How does the Leader of the House think that is going?

I think that the Chancellor should be able to come to the Floor of the House and outline his policies. This is a serious moment. We want to ensure that the markets are reassured, and I suggest that any questions that the hon. Lady has on economic policy are directed to the Chancellor.

In her answer to the Leader of the Opposition, my right hon. Friend abundantly demonstrated to this House what an enormous asset she is to the governing party. Does she agree that any single Conservative MP would make a fantastic Chancellor, well above any socialist or separatist on the Opposition Benches?

In terms of the Opposition’s performance, I think Larry the cat would give them a run for their money.

I and my colleagues take no joy in the difficulties in which the Government and the country find themselves at present, because they affect all our constituents. Does the Leader of the House agree that most people watching today do not want to see political point scoring or in-house backstabbing? They want to know how they can afford to pay their mortgages, how they can meet the cost of living and how they can make decisions about their businesses.

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Lovely though I am, I think that people want to hear from the Chancellor. They want to hear the detail of the policies that are changing, and hon. Members will want to ask him about how that will affect their constituents. That is what we should be focusing on today.

I very much welcome the speed at which the new Chancellor has acted. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Chancellor and all members of the Government will continue to work with colleagues on the Back Benches to ensure that we are able to communicate the great successes of this Conservative Government to all parts of the nation?

I know that the Chancellor wants to work with all Members of this House in the interests of all our constituents. I hope that there will also be opportunities to talk about our record in government and how we have transformed this country for the better since 2010.

The Leader of the House’s response to the urgent question was quite frankly ridiculous. She is claiming that the Prime Minister, cowering in some corner somewhere, is courageous. It does not take courage to crash our economy; it takes reckless arrogance and a disregard for ordinary people’s working lives. Equally, it does not take courage to sack a Chancellor after barely a month; it takes total, desperate opportunism. Will the Leader of the House admit that what it will take to restore our fiscal credibility and the confidence of the markets is a Labour Government?

The Prime Minister’s actions did take courage—personal courage—and they were the right thing to do in the national interest. I think that the right thing to do in the national interest is to let the Chancellor give his statement.

Whether it was the £450 billion spent during the pandemic, whether it is Ukraine and the 100,000 refugees now in our country whom our constituents are looking after, or whether it is the hardships of the energy crisis, can my right hon. Friend tell us that this Government will always do what is necessary to step up to the plate and help the most vulnerable people in society, across our country and the rest of the world?

As I am sure the Chancellor will say, we are in very volatile times. The war in Ukraine is not just a war against the people of Ukraine; it is an economic war against other nations, too. We will always do the right thing in those circumstances.

Diolch yn fawr, Mr Llefarydd. The new Chancellor’s veneer of fiscal responsibility fails to disguise the fact that imposing more painful austerity is a political choice made to save the absentee Prime Minister from the consequences of her ideological experiment. With the Welsh Government already facing a shortfall of more than £4 billion over three years, and with public services close to buckling, further austerity will entrench the vast wealth inequalities that characterise this disunited kingdom. Will the Leader of the House admit that now even the pretence of levelling up is dead?

I ask the right hon. Lady to remember that we have given the largest budget ever to the devolved Administrations. Against the backdrop of coming into government when there was no money left, we have still managed to hold down fuel duty, introduce a living wage, create a modern welfare system in which people are better off and get nearly 4 million people into work.

I share the Government’s desire to reduce tax on working people, but of course we must ensure stability in the markets, because they go hand in hand. I therefore welcome the Chancellor’s announcement to the markets earlier this morning. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government are working with the Office for Budget Responsibility and others in developing policy for the upcoming medium-term fiscal plan?

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. He is absolutely right to stress the importance of stability, and I think that will be helped by the Chancellor being able to make his statement.

The Leader of the House suggests that we should be grateful for the fact that the Prime Minister has made a difficult decision. I presume that she means “grateful for the fact that the Prime Minister has stuck to it,” given the number of U-turns that we have seen over the last couple of days, but that is what the job is—making difficult decisions. There are difficult decisions to be made about what is happening in Ukraine, about the fact that President Putin has nuclear weapons, about the chaos caused by Brexit, about gang crime, about the climate crisis, and about Ebola in Africa; and all that we know right now—unless the Leader of the House tells us otherwise—is that the Prime Minister is cowering under her desk and asking for it all to go away. Is it not about time she did that, and let someone else who can make decisions in the British national interest take charge instead?

The Prime Minister is not under a desk, as the hon. Lady suggests. I can assure the House that, with regret, she is not here for a very good reason. Neither has she taken this decision to win the hon. Lady’s gratitude; she has done it out of a sense of duty, because she knows what is in the national interest.

As my right hon. Friend has said, this will have been a difficult decision for the Prime Minister, both politically and personally because of her loyalty of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng). However, it is vital that we provide economic stability for the families and businesses in constituencies like mine and across the country. We have already seen that this morning from the Chancellor. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is high time the House heard from the Chancellor about how we are going to provide that stability?

We know that the Prime Minister is now not in power. We know that there has been a coup, because the Prime Minister should be here to defend her decisions today. We want to know from the Prime Minister why her economic plan has been trashed just weeks after it was announced. We want to know from her whether she is sorry for the misery she has caused to millions of people across the country. We want to know, on behalf of those who now have new mortgages at higher interest rates for the foreseeable future, whether she is sorry for her actions. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the House says, is not cowering away. If she is not cowering away, will she be here to sit by the Chancellor and show her confidence in the new plans to the country?

I know it is not usually in the nature of the hon. Gentleman to overdramatise a situation, but I do not think there has been a coup. I do, however, agree with him that these are serious matters for our constituents, and I hope that all hon. Members will be able to question the Chancellor and receive the answers that they need for their constituents.

Fiscal credibility is always the backbone of any growth policy, so I welcome the actions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but just as important are pro-growth reforms to back entrepreneurs and businesses. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will continue to review EU-inspired regulations to make them bespoke for the UK economy, deliver pro-growth investment zones right across the country, and boost our energy supply?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. This is really important to our communities. We will continue with our programme on EU law and EU retained law, and our enabling regulation that the Department for International Trade is looking at, and also our programme on investment zones, in which there has been an enormous number of expressions of interest.

In her initial answer to the urgent question, the Leader of the House blamed international circumstances. If that is true, why do people in this country face paying more in increased mortgage payments than people elsewhere in the world; and if it is true, why did the former deputy Governor of the Bank of England say yesterday that the crash in the markets was the result of unique circumstances in the UK? Would it not be better for the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister to admit that they got it wrong and they are responsible, as a first and necessary step in rebuilding confidence in the markets?

I would point the hon. Gentleman to mortgage rates elsewhere in the world. I also suggest that he raises this with the Chancellor, who is waiting to give a statement.

I welcome the change of approach; I think it was the right decision to take in the circumstances. At times like this, our constituents still want to be reassured, as they are worried about their bills. Can the Leader of the House confirm, for them and for the whole House, that our plan to help people with their bills this winter remains in place?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The Chancellor’s statement today is incredibly important, and people will want to hear about the package that we are bringing forward to help on energy prices and the other measures to help with the cost of living.

We have just seen the back of one Tory Prime Minister for trampling over standards in public life, only for him to be replaced by another who in just 40 days has herself failed to meet at least three of the Nolan principles. I would love to ask the Prime Minister herself about this, but given that she is not here, I shall ask that Leader of the House: is it leadership to sack your Chancellor for doing exactly what he was asked to do; is it objectivity to refuse to allow the OBR experts to assess the so-called mini-Budget; and does she agree that the first test of accountability is to actually show up?

I would suggest to the hon. Lady that it is leadership to take tough decisions in the national interest, even though they may be personally and politically difficult to take.

The Labour party stood on a manifesto that would have inflicted the highest ever tax burden on my constituents, so does my right hon. Friend agree that Labour can never be trusted to support the hard-working people of the UK or of Southend West?

Pendleton leisure centre, a flagship council development to tackle health inequalities in an area of high deprivation that seldom enjoys such investment, was suspended last week, largely, I am told, as a result of the Government’s economic car crash and the prospect of more public spending cuts to come. Will the Leader of the House apologise on behalf of the Prime Minister to the people of Salford?

Although this is not business questions, if the hon. Lady would like to give me the details of that case, I would be happy to take it up.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House and my constituents that this Government will always pay their way and make whatever tough decisions are necessary to ensure that we go for growth in a responsible and Conservative way?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance, and the Chancellor will be along shortly to give him some more details.

Who does the Leader of the House consider does a U-turn better: the Prime Minister or the leader of the Scottish Tories?

I live in hope that the hon. Gentleman and his party might do a U-turn and decide to honour the democratic vote in the referendum.

Since being elected, I have spent three years working on the Health Committee with the now Chancellor. He has an eye for detail, and compassion as well. Is he not exactly the right person to come forward and stabilise, and to demonstrate to the markets how difficult it can be in turbulent times and that he is the man to take us forward?

I thank my hon. Friend for those remarks about the new Chancellor. I think that is precisely why the Prime Minister has chosen him.

In the national interest, and also to offer reassurance to the markets, can the Leader of the House confirm that the Prime Minister will not be taking any decisions on economic policy in the future? [Laughter.]

I have great affection for the right hon. Lady and am sure that the whole House appreciates her question, but the Prime Minister, her Chancellor and her Cabinet will be taking these decisions in the future. The decision that she has taken over the weekend, although personally difficult for her, is the right one for the nation.

The Leader of the House has mentioned a couple of times that the Prime Minister has taken difficult decisions. May I please enlighten her that these are not difficult decisions? Difficult decisions are what are facing our constituents, choosing how to turn on the lights, heat their home and feed their children. Do our constituents not deserve an answer from the Prime Minister, rather than an answer saying the Chancellor will come and tell us later?

The hon. Lady will want to hear from the Chancellor, because she will be able to ask him the precise questions that are of interest to her constituents. This Government have always protected people against the cost of living, and we have always protected the most vulnerable in our society. We will continue to do that.

The Leader of the House and her colleagues do not have a monopoly on understanding what it is to take difficult decisions in the national interest. In 2010, my colleagues and I entered Government and took many difficult decisions for which we paid a political price. We did that because it was in the national interest. We did it on the advice of the Bank of England, and we set up the Office for Budget Responsibility. The Prime Minister was also part of that Government. At what point did she think it was no longer necessary to listen to the Bank of England and the OBR?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising the issues we faced in 2010. People will remember the note outlining that there was no money left. What is less well understood is the scorched earth policy accompanying it, which tied the incoming Government into all kinds of contractual difficulties to make their job so much harder. That is why those on the Opposition Benches should never be allowed near Government. The Chancellor will be along shortly to answer questions about the OBR.

I find it absolutely incredible that the Leader of the House is incredulous that people might want to hear from the Prime Minister, as if it is a political game to ask questions of the leader of our country. That is an embarrassing thing to assert. She so wants to hear from the Chancellor but, in the national interest, can I ask her to be completely honest, because nothing we have seen has been honest—[Interruption.] I apologise.

Oh yes, it was not about an individual.

We had the statement at 11 o’clock, when I was on the train—I could actually get on a train—so why was it that the markets needed reassuring?

First, I fully appreciate the optics of my appearing at the Dispatch Box, but there is a very genuine reason why the Prime Minister is not here. I understand that people will wish to make political hay out of it. She would wish to be here, but she is unable to be here at the moment. The Chancellor will be along shortly to answer these questions.

Last Friday, the value of the pound fell after the Prime Minister walked out of her press conference after just over eight minutes. Is it not increasingly the case that she and her Government are a risk to Britain’s financial stability? It is time she stopped shirking and turned up to be held accountable, or she should get out of the way and call a general election.

I stress again to all honourable colleagues that there is a very good reason why the Prime Minister is not here. The Chancellor will be making a statement shortly, when Members will be able to ask him these questions.

On the replacement of the Chancellor, given that he lasted 38 days in office and crashed the economy, will the Leader of the House confirm that the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) will be rejecting his ministerial severance payment?

I would not be involved in that decision at all, but the hon. Gentleman will know to whom he can write in order to find that out.

The Leader of the House has claimed repeatedly that the Prime Minister has been courageous, but if the Prime Minister were really courageous, she would be here today, would she not? If she cannot or will not come to explain to the British people the reasons for her humiliating U-turns and to apologise to them, as the Leader of the House just did, from the Dispatch Box for the damage the Tories and she have done to this country, living standards and businesses, what is the point of her?

I refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave a little while ago about the Prime Minister and to the one I gave a moment ago about the fact that I certainly regret the uncertainty that has added to worries that were already there about the very volatile global economic situation. That is why I am keen and happy that we have a statement from the Chancellor today.

The Prime Minister repeatedly declared that she was working in lockstep with her Chancellor but then unceremoniously dumped her closest political friend at the earliest possible opportunity in order to temporarily save her job. Now, in the greatest of ironies, she has sent out to speak on her behalf the very right hon. Lady who is desperately seeking to replace her. Leader of the House, I understand that Downing Street is hosting a reception this evening—is it a wake?

The motivations for the Prime Minister taking the decisions she has have been about the national interest. The hon. Gentleman may not appreciate, and I am not asking him to, the courage and duty that she felt to do that, but that is why she has done it.

I want to get this clear. Can the Leader of the House confirm that the former Chancellor has been removed by the Prime Minister for acting on her instructions? Can the Leader of the House also confirm that the Prime Minister overruled the former Chancellor on the contents of the financial statement before it was made? If both things are true, the Prime Minister needs to resign, doesn’t she?

These are not matters for me. The hon. Gentleman may wish to raise matters with the Chancellor. I think that what our constituents want to hear about from us today are the issues that are affecting them, and that is what the Chancellor will be speaking about, whenever he gets to this Chamber.

On behalf of the Prime Minister, will the Leader of the House simply say to the people of this country, “We are sorry”?

I have done so twice before in this urgent question and I will do so again. I know that this is an incredibly uncertain time for families and businesses across the country. The events that led up to the statement that is being made today are unfortunate and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has taken decisive action to stabilise markets. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to question the Chancellor on those detailed matters. I have done this and I am happy to do so again.

We are told that that the Prime Minister is going to be coming here in a moment to join the Chancellor when he makes his statement—presumably propped up “El Cid”-like, like Charlton Heston. This should have been an opportunity for the Prime Minister to show leadership and to apologise to the nation at the Dispatch Box in the Chamber of the House of Commons, yet she has failed to do so. We have all heard the stories about our constituents, up and down the country, who have had mortgages withdrawn at the last minute and whose lives have been put on hold because of the reckless mini-Budget that she agreed with her Chancellor. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is reckless of the Prime Minister to not show that leadership today and be here in this Chamber to be accountable for what she has done?

I think that the Prime Minister has shown leadership in taking the tough decision that she has and not for the first time. If our Prime Minister had not shown leadership when she was Foreign Secretary, we would not, alongside European nations, be giving the support to Ukraine that we rightly should be proud of.

If the Prime Minister was as courageous the Leader of the House asserts, she would be here answering questions this afternoon. The fact that the Prime Minister is unwilling to come to the House shows her complete lack of authority—weak before the country, weak before Parliament and weak before the markets. Refusing to face parliamentary accountability for her actions is not cowardice, it is a dereliction of duty. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is well past time for this lame duck Prime Minister to go?

The Prime Minister has come to this House many times, and in the previous roles she has held, she has come to this House many times, often to talk about very difficult issues. There is a genuine reason why she is not here, and I hope that she will be able to join the House later this afternoon.

I was not going to rise to ask a question, but I have been concerned at some of the answers that the Leader of the House has given. If we are to stabilise the markets and restore some confidence in the economy, we have to have trust in the strong leadership of our country, and that is the role of the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House has said a number of times that there are good reasons why the Prime Minister is not here this afternoon. In the interests of total transparency and proper accountability, and to restore confidence in markets, will she give us those reasons?

The right hon. Lady will have to be content with my assurances. I cannot disclose the reasons; I have asked if I can—I am being very genuine with the House on this matter. I hope that she will be able to join us a bit later on this afternoon, but both the Prime Minister and her Chancellor, and her Cabinet, are determined to take the tough decisions to ensure that we have stability and confidence going forward. I hope that the Chancellor’s statement will reassure the right hon. Lady.

To be honest, I just thought it was utterly shabby to sack the Chancellor of the Exchequer for doing precisely what he had been told to do by the boss. It is like sacking the staff for messing up yourself. It is not on. It is bad form. It is not honourable; it is despicable. But what really worries me is that you cannot really govern if you do not have a mandate. You cannot govern if you cannot get your Budget through this House, because by definition that shows that the House does not have confidence in you. Every honourable Government previous to this, at that moment when it was evident that they could not get their Budget through, has resigned and allowed a general election. Is that not what should happen now?

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that I think it is an honourable thing to act in the national interest, even if it is incredibly difficult personally and politically for someone to do that, and that all Conservative Members were elected in 2019 as a team, on a manifesto that we are determined to deliver.

The right hon. Lady has said many times that the Prime Minister could not come here for a specific reason at this time. Is there a reason why the Prime Minister decided she did not want to make a statement to the House? She could have chosen any time to do that, even at 10 pm. Does the Leader of the House not think that we, as elected MPs, and the public in this country deserve to hear from the Prime Minister?

I am sure there will be many opportunities to hear from the Prime Minister, some in the next 24 hours, but given the nature of the statement today, it is appropriate that the Chancellor delivers it.

Whether she is under her desk or behind a couch, people rightly view the Prime Minister’s sacking of the Chancellor as a particularly unedifying act of self-preservation, given that he was thrown under the bus for saying exactly what she asked him to say. It would be like the ventriloquist Ray Alan sacking Lord Charles for saying the wrong thing. Will the Leader of the House now join me in asking the ventriloquist dummies on her own Benches, who demanded that the Scottish Government follow this insane, economy-wrecking policy, to apologise to the people of Scotland?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for noting that the public might be concerned for the former Chancellor, but I think what they are really going to be concerned about is their own household budgets and their businesses. That is why it is important that this decision was taken, and we will hear from the Chancellor shortly. With regard to the hon. Gentleman’s other point, I would point out that there are many people, including many in Scotland, who would like the First Minister to apologise for some of her decisions.

With her economic plan, much like her judgment, in tatters and the fact that she cannot even be bothered to come to the Chamber today, I have to ask: what is the point of the Prime Minister?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that insightful question. I repeat that the Prime Minister would normally be here, but that there is a good reason why she is not.

Is it true that the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng) first found out that he was sacked on Twitter, rather than being told to his face?

Hon. and right hon. Members of this House obviously want to ask all kinds of questions, but what the public are worried about are cost of living issues, the stability of the markets, and the energy package that we will be putting through later today to help them with the cost of living. I urge all colleagues to remember the context in which we are meeting this afternoon.

I would very much like to be able to tell all hon. Members what the Prime Minister’s business is today, but there are very serious matters, as well as economic matters, in her in-tray. As Members know, she comes to this House on a regular basis, and she will be here tomorrow, but she is not able to be here at this precise moment.

The markets were spooked not just by the reckless mini-Budget, but by the sense that we had a Prime Minister incapable of answering questions at the end of her press conference and without any sort of grip on this Government. It is entirely legitimate for my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) to give her an opportunity to come here to assure the markets. Is not the reality that the Prime Minister’s inability to answer questions is just as fundamental as her failure on policy in why this country is now in an economic crisis?

I am buoyed up by the fact that Opposition Members very much want to see the Prime Minister. I hope that, if she is able to join us this afternoon, they will give her a big cheer.

I accept what the right hon. Lady is saying about the Prime Minister not being here—that there may be a very good reason. I also agree with her when she says frequently that, at the moment, we must be acting in the national interest. For me, the national interest is what is in the interests of our people—our constituents. What they are telling me in Edinburgh West, and I am sure what constituents are telling many other hon. Members, is that they no longer have any confidence in this Prime Minister. Although she may have had the courage to sack her partner in presenting the growth plan to the country, what they would like is for her now to have the courage to accept that she was also wrong and to step down. Will the right hon. Lady and her Cabinet colleagues please take that message back to the Prime Minister wherever she is?

The Prime Minister, in her current and previous roles, has always acted in the national interest and will continue to do so. Her Government will continue to support her. This country needs some stability and some assurance now, and she always takes decisions in the national interest.

As the new Chancellor has reversed all the economic promises made by the Prime Minister in her election campaign to become Prime Minister and as that very Chancellor had the fewest votes in that leadership election—he was thrown out with only 18—does that not show that the next Prime Minister should not be chosen by Conservative Members and their wider membership, but by the British people in a general election, as soon as possible, to get this country back on track?

There are serious questions that we as a Parliament should be examining today. I hope we will soon move on to the Chancellor’s statement, because that is what our constituents are concerned and worried about—not events within the Westminster bubble.

Obviously, it is a legitimate question that has been put forward today. The public want to know why the Prime Minister sacked her Chancellor after just 38 days—and particularly, given that she was co-architect of the economic plans, why she has not resigned.

Later this week we will have Prime Minister’s questions, and hon. Members have an opportunity every week to put questions to the Prime Minister.

The pound has fallen off a cliff, interest rates are soaring, inflation is rocketing and pensions have been on the verge of collapse. We have a new Chancellor who is the de facto Prime Minister and a Prime Minister who has been reduced to a spectator as her own MPs plot her removal. The Leader of the House has defended the Prime Minister today, but does she think that, had she won the leadership contest, she would have been a better Prime Minister?

I support the Prime Minister. This Prime Minister has shown great courage and duty over the last few days and she has my admiration and respect for that. The hon. Lady has various criticisms of the Prime Minister, but I would stand our Prime Minister against her First Minister any day of the week.

Local public services in Warrington have been slashed to pieces over the past 12 years and we were finding it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for basic statutory services even before inflation started rocketing, pushing the costs of delivery up. Any more cuts will mean collapse. The Prime Minister spent last week promising no cuts to public spending and boasting about her two-year energy price freeze. Does she have any say at all on Government economic policy?

The hon. Lady can put her questions to the Chancellor shortly, but I would point out that all organisations are facing rising costs. That is in part why we have acted so swiftly; even today we will be putting through legislation to help with business and the cost of living.

The Prime Minister has been in office for six weeks, but notoriously, even with the rigours of the Budget, has yet to find time to call the First Ministers of Scotland or Wales. Does the Leader of the House think the Prime Minister will remain in office long enough to be able to do so?

I know the Prime Minister takes seriously her responsibilities to work constructively with the other Administrations, and she will always do so.

I am sure the markets will be reassured to see the Prime Minister is not hiding under her desk but is here in the House today. She still has until 10 pm tonight to answer questions that have been asked if she wants to reassure the markets and create some stability. However, I have another question for the Leader of the House. I have been drawn in the ballot for Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday; can she guarantee that the current Prime Minister will be answering them?

The Prime Minister throwing her Chancellor under the bus in order to save her skin is not a tough decision. Tough decisions are made by people who then show true leadership by asking others to come with them and by inspiring them. This Prime Minister has done none of that. Why should we follow her when she has shown no leadership whatsoever, but has hidden away?

I think if we spoke to any member of the Ukrainian Parliament, they would tell us that our Prime Minister has shown leadership.

Urgent business, we are told by the Leader of the House, prevented the Prime Minister from coming to the House. What on earth could have been more urgent than coming to atone for the economic chaos she has wrought on pension holders and mortgage payers across these islands, and especially in Scotland, where the Conservative party enjoys no mandate whatsoever? The Prime Minister thanked her former Chancellor for the “excellent work” he had done. Can the Leader of the House explain—or maybe the Prime Minister can, now she has turned up—thanked for what?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the Prime Minister has Prime Minister’s questions every single week. He can put questions to her then. There was very good reason, as I have repeatedly explained to the House, why she could not be here. He will notice that she is present now, and I will begin listening to the hon. Gentleman on democratic mandates when he honours the result of the Scottish referendum.

I thank the Leader of the House for her answers. I am not in the business of point scoring. Does she not agree that the face behind a Budget is much less important than what the Budget outlines? Is there confidence that the Chancellor can help business, help people stay in work and ensure that funding is available for the NHS—Government Departments cannot take further austerity—so that all of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland truly can be better together?

The hon. Gentleman is held in great affection by all Members of the House, and he is often the finale at urgent questions because he is full of common sense. I think that what he says is absolutely right, and I hope that we will hear from the Chancellor very shortly.

Is it relevant to the question? [Interruption.] If it is relevant, I will take the point of order.

I am grateful, Mr Speaker. You know that for the past hour we have been listening to questions that were meant to be directed to the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House said repeatedly that there were reasons why she could not be here. If there were legitimate reasons, I am sure that every single Member of the House would want to hear them. Now that the Prime Minister has arrived, would this not be a perfect opportunity for her to explain why she could not be here?

Let us put this to bed. It is not for me but for the Government to put forward Ministers to respond to urgent questions once they are granted. It is not a matter for the Chair. The hon. Member has put the point on the record, and I note that the Prime Minister is now in her place.

Order. Mr Bradshaw, I expect better. I want you to be silent while I read this out, as it is very important.

Before I call the Chancellor to make his statement—[Interruption.] Yes, I should think so. This has happened a few times today. That is the third apology, and I do not want any more.

Before I call the Chancellor to make his statement I would like to point out that a British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on I now call the Chancellor of the Exchequer.