Ministerial Resignation Statement - Dr Phillip Lee MP - Caring for Bracknell Constituency
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Ministerial Resignation Statement

Resigning as a minister from the Government is a very difficult decision because it goes against every grain in my soul. The very word resign conveys a sense of giving up, but that is the last thing I will do. I take public service seriously and responsibly. That is the spirit that has always guided me as a doctor and continues to guide me as a politician.

For me, resigning is a last resort – not something that I want to do but something I feel I must do because, for me, such a serious principle is being breached that I would find it hard to live with myself afterwards if I let it pass. I come to this decision after a great deal of personal reflection and discussion with family, friends and trusted colleagues.

The main reason for my taking this decision now is the Brexit process and the Government’s wish to limit Parliament’s role in contributing to the final outcome in a vote that takes place today.

If, in the future, I am to look my children in the eye and honestly say that I did my best for them I cannot, in all good conscience, support how our country’s exit from the EU looks set to be delivered.

As a Member of Parliament, I also have a major responsibility to my constituency of Bracknell. In extensive consultations with local employers, both large and small, I have been warned that they expect Brexit as it is currently being pursued, whatever the negotiated settlement, will damage their business. I have spoken to people, many of whom have lived, worked and raised their family here, whose fears for their futures I am not always able to allay. Regrettably, it seems inevitable that the people, economy and culture of my constituency will be affected negatively, and I cannot ignore that it is to them that I owe my first responsibility.

Sadly, from within government I have found it virtually impossible to help bring sufficient change to the course on which we are bound.

I voted to remain in the European Union and have not changed my view that continued membership would have been the better strategic course. Even so, I believe that it would be impossible and wrong to seek to go back to how things were before the referendum. We cannot and should not turn back the clock.

However, as the negotiations are unfolding, two things are becoming clear.

• The practicalities, logistics and implications of leaving the EU are far more complex than was ever envisaged and certainly more complex than the people were told in 2016. The UK is not going to be ready in time, neither is the EU, and both would suffer from a rushed or fudged agreement.

• The outcome that is emerging will be neither fully to leave the EU, nor fully to stay. This is not an outcome for which anyone knowingly voted. In my view, this raises the important principle of legitimacy: I do not believe it would be right for the Government to pursue such a course without a plan to seek a confirmatory mandate for the outcome. And I believe that Parliament should have the power to ask the Government to adjust its course in the best interests of the people whom its Members represent.

In my medical experience, if a course of treatment is not working, then I review it. I also have a duty to get my patient’s informed consent for that action.

If Brexit is worth doing, then it is certainly worth doing well; regardless of how long that takes. It is, however, irresponsible to proceed as we are, so we should:

• recognise that the UK and EU are not ready for Brexit and pause, extend or revoke Article 50 so that we do not leave before we are ready.

• re-engage with our European and international friends to talk about how to achieve the aims that we share for the future in ways that respect individual countries’ interests and sovereignty. Since 2016, electorates in many countries across Europe have expressed similar concerns to those that we expressed in the referendum and so much is changing, and will continue to change, across the whole of our continent.

• empower our Parliament so that its role is not limited to making fake choices – such as between a ‘bad deal’ and a cliff-edge ‘no deal’. Our Parliament should be able to direct our Government to change course in our interests. In all conscience, I cannot support the Government’s decision to oppose this amendment because doing so breaches such fundamental principles of human rights and Parliamentary sovereignty. A vote between bad and worse is not a meaningful vote. And I cannot bring myself to vote for it in the bastion of liberty, freedom and human rights that is our Parliament.

When the Government is able to set out an achievable, clearly defined path – one that has been properly considered, whose implications have been foreseen, and that is rooted in reality and evidence, not dreams and dogma – it should go to the people, once again, to seek their confirmation.

I will miss the Ministry of Justice and the enormous privilege of guiding our Government’s work to turn around the lives of vulnerable young offenders and female offenders; to mobilise the remarkable power of sport to transform lives and cut crime; and to improve how we deal with offenders’ health and mental health which drives so much human behaviour.

I have had the privilege to work with inspiring, dedicated people; to be touched by the appalling stories that some of those caught up in our criminal justice system have shared with me – both victims and offenders; and in a small way to bring some influence to bear to help make our society more just and more secure.

The experience has been deeply humbling. For the last two years, I have been completely committed to enabling our criminal justice system to serve our society better. There is so much more to do and I wish the department and its excellent ministerial team all the strength that they need to drive through the necessary reforms. I regret that I feel forced to leave and will remain a strong supporter.

I strongly supported Theresa May’s bid to lead the Conservative Party in 2016. I have great respect for her and still believe that she is the best person to lead the country at this exceptionally difficult time. But the fact is that we have to make many big changes for our country to have a positive future. There is a great deal of work to be done to lead with more strength, vision and integrity. We must be honest and open at all times with each other and with the public. We must renew our effort to bring the nation back together and proceed in our collective national interest, drawing on the best talent our country has to offer.

We must also have an eye beyond our shores, sustaining our European friendships through a difficult time because what is very clear is that, in our interconnected age, it is nations with allies that will thrive.

It is important that individual ministers and Parliamentarians should be able to influence and speak up on these issues. But effective Government in our country also relies on the important principle of collective responsibility. Resigning my post in this Government will allow me to work towards what I believe can be a better future, inside or outside the EU, for my children, my constituents and my country.

That will start today when MPs vote on the House of Lords’ amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill and I will support the amendment which – if it is adopted – will empower Parliament to reject a bad deal and direct the Government to re-enter discussions, extending or pausing negotiations which are being badly rushed because of the deadline that Article 50 imposes.

We will not change our country overnight – but we can and must hand our children a better legacy.

335 Comments
  • George Chiesa
    Posted at 10:09h, 12 June

    That’s the most sensible and respectable statement any politician published in the last 2 years. My respect, Sir!

  • Peter Pillinger
    Posted at 10:10h, 12 June

    A man of honour and integrity

  • T H SIEGERS
    Posted at 10:10h, 12 June

    Thank you! Country before party. About time someone stopped tipped toeing around Brexit shambles

  • Jonathan Barker
    Posted at 10:13h, 12 June

    Thoughtful and wise, recognising the complexity and not being didactic or black and white about something that warrants care and time. Thank you

  • Michael Lucas
    Posted at 10:13h, 12 June

    Absolute respect for what you have decided, Sir. Let’s hope your decision may help to propel this whole process in a more focused and democratic direction.

  • Barbara Ann Sutton
    Posted at 10:14h, 12 June

    Thank you for having the integrity and courage to resign. I fully support and agree with your statement and hope that this country can be saved from a disastrous Brexit.

  • Gillian Tickle
    Posted at 10:15h, 12 June

    Congratulations on your courageous and principled decision. I hope it will encourage more MPs to put their constituents’ interests first and support the Lords’ amendments.

  • Peter Milton
    Posted at 10:16h, 12 June

    Dr. Lee, you have integrity and honesty, which is sadly lacking from the Brexiteers. My MP in Tooting has similar attributes.

    I applaud you for taking this difficult decision.

  • Norman Mellor
    Posted at 10:17h, 12 June

    A really brave and courageous move. I am not a Tory, but I applaud you for taking this principled stand. Lets hope more of your colleagues do this and soon….

  • Nick Bailey
    Posted at 10:20h, 12 June

    Thank you.

  • Angie Ray
    Posted at 10:21h, 12 June

    I may not agree with you but I completely respect your decision to act on principle. An honest man is always to be admired.

  • Richard Francis
    Posted at 10:22h, 12 June

    Respect to you Sir. You are voting with your conscience and that is what our children need.

  • Alexander Maisner
    Posted at 10:22h, 12 June

    Well said, thank you.

  • Ken Muir
    Posted at 10:22h, 12 June

    Thank you for making a stand for what you believe is best for our country, despite the inevitable torrent of abuse you will receive from Brexiteer zealots and the attempts of some print publications to bully you into submission. Thank you for giving our children a chance of a better country to grow up in, to be educated in and to thrive in.

  • Richard Miles
    Posted at 10:23h, 12 June

    Thank goodness someone is making a principled stand to reflect the interests of the country. I congratulate you on taking this very difficult step and for your integrity.

  • Cliff Curtis
    Posted at 10:24h, 12 June

    Excellent

  • Tim BC
    Posted at 10:25h, 12 June

    If only your colleague in a neighbouring constituency had the same courage to respect her electorate’s vote on the 23/06/2016 and do what is in their best interests instead of the Conservative Party.

  • Alan White
    Posted at 10:26h, 12 June

    Thank you for having the courage and integrity to do this. You have my deppest gratitude.

  • Nicholas Beale
    Posted at 10:26h, 12 June

    Thank you for this heartfelt statement. But I am seriously concerned that the proposed amendments give every incentive for Barnier and co to give the UK the worst possible deal. Negotiations are not like medical treatment, and hobbling your own side leads to a worse outcome if your opponents are logical and ruthless.

    Dominic Grieve is one of my oldest friends who I respect enormously. But I do hope your amendments fail. We shall see.

  • Terry Enga
    Posted at 10:28h, 12 June

    Thank you. A very honourable decision and you have my very best wishes.

  • Terry Enga
    Posted at 10:28h, 12 June

    Thank you. A very honourable decision and you have my very best wishes.

  • Martin Roberts
    Posted at 10:28h, 12 June

    I can barely believe my eyes…. a Tory with a conscience.

  • Patricia Glenys Golding
    Posted at 10:29h, 12 June

    A refreshing change to find a politician who lives according to his morals and stands by his principles. Well done to you! If only our MP for Eastleigh was the same!

  • Ewen Mac
    Posted at 10:30h, 12 June

    Thank you for your principled stand. However flawed our democracy is, it restores your faith to be reminded that there are people of integrity – in all parties – who are prepared to put country over career.

  • Georg von Graevenitz
    Posted at 10:31h, 12 June

    Well done, good decision! Thank you.

  • Robin Beecroft
    Posted at 10:33h, 12 June

    Your honesty and integrity shines through, Dr Lee. I honour your public service and your response to the call of duty. I feel there are several Government ministers who wrestle with their consciences like you have done, and I can only hope your act today inspires them to reflect and make the right decision for the future of the country. With all my best wishes.

  • Will Ross
    Posted at 10:38h, 12 June

    Thank you.

  • Bill Dee
    Posted at 10:38h, 12 June

    Thank you for putting the country before your party and upholding the principles on which our parliamentary system of government is based. I am moved by your resignation letter and also deeply impressed by your personal integrity. Well done sir.

  • Richard Pink
    Posted at 10:39h, 12 June

    Well said i could not agree more !

  • Nick Collins
    Posted at 10:39h, 12 June

    All honour to you, Mr Lee, for a fine and far-sighted statement and for acting in the way you have.

  • Larry Poulton
    Posted at 10:41h, 12 June

    Respect

  • JAMES ANDERSON
    Posted at 10:41h, 12 June

    Well done. Your reasons are cogent. If this government is not careful the outworking of their course could ultimately contribute to the breakup of the UK. I am from Northern Ireland and I am worried as someone from a unionist background. Many of my associates of a similar background would vote to leave the UK if there was a catastrophic detachment from continental Europe. Too many in England know desperately little of their own history, which could be written in terms of Europe wide linkage spanning sine before the Norman conquest. My name is ofViking derivation, I imagine! Good luck for the next stage of your career. You have closed one door behind you but been presented with many more to open and enjoy.

  • Laura Quigley
    Posted at 10:41h, 12 June

    Mr Lee, I don’t know you and I am not in your constituency, but these are great words, conveying the uncertainty of the future. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Alison Griffiths
    Posted at 10:41h, 12 June

    Well done to you…it is a shame you have to resign as a minister to follow your conscience, what does that say about our political system?

  • WAYNE IAN SMITH
    Posted at 10:42h, 12 June

    Well done sir , integrity is so lacking in many ministers/ politicians today.
    The argument put forward for leaving our European partners was built on sand , was misleading, based on untruths, about a belief that we no longer wanted / need immigration.
    Our children’s interests, our country’s interests, Europe’s interests would have been best served by us being at the negotiating table, not outside the door.
    It is not to late to rethink what damage is being done to our country, Europe, for the sake of our children, world peace ,put a stop to this fundamental mistake.
    Well done sir.

  • Margaret Gillett
    Posted at 10:43h, 12 June

    Well done! Wish my Tory MP would take this stance

  • Mary Elizabeth Dodds
    Posted at 10:43h, 12 June

    Thank you for your courage to speak the truth. I hope that this will encourage others who are the elected representatives of the people will act according to their conscience and on the basis of the evidence revealed by the Brexit process. We are in need of your courage in our country and in need of Parliamentary integrity.

  • Chris Michell Heath
    Posted at 10:46h, 12 June

    Extremely good and thoughtful statement.
    Hope other Tories listen to your very good sense!

  • Andrew Beck
    Posted at 10:46h, 12 June

    Congratulations. It warms my heart to know that there are still senior politicians with the integrity to make clear statements like this. I look forward to a future in which people like you feel comfortable to again accept positions of authority.

  • Chris Jones
    Posted at 10:47h, 12 June

    Thank you, Phillip – very wise words.

  • Jennifer Monahan
    Posted at 10:47h, 12 June

    Thank you for your courage.
    Others feel the same as you. May they have the courage to uphold parliamentary democracy. and challenge the power of our elective dictatorship.

  • Daniel G
    Posted at 10:47h, 12 June

    Dr Philip Lee, You are a true hero, the one that whole of the country desperately needs right now!
    Very sad to hear this news but I do believe you have made the right decision in the best interest of all of us living in Bracknell and whole of the UK.
    I wish you best of luck in bringing out the truth about hugely damaging Brexit and I believe you will make a huge difference in how Brexit is delivered in the end.

  • Sheila Redston
    Posted at 10:50h, 12 June

    Tremendous respect to you sir. It is your constituents , the intetests of the nation at large and our children’s future that should prevail ovrr party dogma and party whips. I hope more will follow you do thst this mess we are in may be seriously objectively reviewed .

  • Pete Stead-Davis
    Posted at 10:50h, 12 June

    A man of princesble well done

  • Peter Cook
    Posted at 10:52h, 12 June

    I salute your principled and honourable approach. If all Conservatives set such standards of public office, we would be able to continue with a Tory Government. All the best to you and yours

  • Chris Heyes
    Posted at 10:52h, 12 June

    Your statement is clearly well thought through, logical an principled – if only there were more in Parliament like you. Brexit is proving to be nothing more than an ideology that is now showing its true colours. The average person in this country will suffer because of it, particularly as we look 5-10 years (and longer) down the line and what such as the Brextremists have in store for the country.

    You have a principled stand and despite the likely reaction of the Brexit-supporting press, there are millions out there who will support what you have done.

  • David Knowles-Leak
    Posted at 10:54h, 12 June

    I admire your decision

  • Ian Archdale Miles
    Posted at 10:54h, 12 June

    Bravo! Let us hope this splendidly timely, measured & candid declaration will rapidly relegitimise similar principled actions all across Parliament.

  • Dr Fiona Cooper
    Posted at 10:55h, 12 June

    Thank you Dr Lee. I have enormous respect for your integrity.

  • Tim Smith
    Posted at 10:55h, 12 June

    Sir,

    The government will be better without you.

    The people of this country voted in a referendum to leave the european union by a majority of over 1 million.

    You need to remember who you work for and who pays your wages if you have forgotten it is the people of this country.

    You should honor the referendum “LEAVE” result and get behind the government.

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