A number of residents have contacted Kevin this week, asking him for his latest views on recent events involving the Prime Minster and staff at No.10 Downing Street. Kevin has today set out his view to constituents in this letter (See below)
Thank you for contacting me.
As you mention the Prime Minister and Chancellor confirmed they had been issued fixed penalty notices by the Metropolitan Police relating to an event held at Number 10 on 19th June 2020. The Prime Minister giving a public apology and confirming he accepted the Police ruling, so had paid the £50 immediately. The Police did their job thoroughly and professionally, investigating in the same way an event in Downing Street as they would have in any other street. The event in question had followed a school visit by the Prime Minister earlier in the day. The Times even reporting on it the next day, at a time when non-essential retail and schools had just re-opened following the first lockdown. The Prime Minister was right to apologise publicly and in Parliament on Tuesday. Those who lost loved ones or who, like me and my own family, were separated from vulnerable relatives for some time, will be justifiably angry at the thought some were not meeting the standards others did and were expected to follow. As the Prime Minister himself has said people had a right to expect better, hence his apology.
Yesterday the House of Commons debated whether previous comments in Parliament should be referred to the Privileges Committee. I was in the Chamber when the vote was put to the House by the Deputy Speaker and, with it being confirmed it would not affect the Police inquiry, no-one dissented so it was carried “on the voice” meaning a recorded vote (When there is division in the House) was not necessary.
For background the Privileges Committee is a cross-party committee which can request evidence and will produce a report at the end of its investigation. The report will be presented to Parliament. The Committee is Chaired by a Labour MP, although in this instance the member concerned has recused himself from this investigation given his previous public comments on the Prime Minister.
I have now served in Government under 2 Prime Ministers and been in Parliament whilst 3 held office. I also worked, in a different role, with Governments led by 2 Labour Prime Ministers. Each had their own traits, strengths and weaknesses. Since 2019 I have found Boris very reactive to issues raised on behalf of our bay and coastal areas more generally. From the initial move to increase Police numbers to the potentially £350m which will be invested into rebuilding Torbay Hospital and the services it provides (Following on from the new Emergency Department and Mental Health Ward already under construction). There is also the £21.9m Town Deal for Torquay and the £13.4m for Paignton’s Future High Streets Fund, alongside other support offered. There were successes for our bay under previous PMs, but it is sometimes worth reflecting on just how long it took to get the Link Road built, then
compare it with the rapid news on investment in our bay we have had in more recent times. There is no guarantee another PM would be as interested.
In early January the Prime Minister was one of the first to send armaments to Ukraine, at a time when many others feared the potential reaction of Russia to doing so or did not think an attack would actually be launched. Even as the Russian threats against our nation have got more heated, this has not deterred him, with welcome cross-party support, from sending even more equipment in response to the atrocities being committed, with anti-ship missiles and armoured vehicles being the latest “Gift from Her Majesty” as Ukrainian Forces often describe the weapons we supply. I can’t say if every Prime Minister I have worked with would have done the same, but this one did.
Given the above and the support for our bay I can therefore accept the apologies made, given they are combined with the moves earlier this year to significantly reform the operation of Downing Street, which is effectively a Government Department with the Prime Minister’s flat in it, in particular the appointment of Steve Barclay as Chief of Staff there.
Kevin Foster MP