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.

  • Stewart W Campbell
    Posted at 11:53h, 12 June

    THANK YOU so much, you are right OUR CHILDREN are the ones who will suffer, and then TAKE uS BACK into the EU.
    The GOV TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT is not a VOTE it is BLACKMAIL. I feel the PUBLIC deserve a VOTE on any deal based on FACTS not LIES, Also REMAIN should be an option. it is the ONLY way to UNITE the Country. I will accept the result based on FACTS but NEVER on LIES.

  • James Pimm
    Posted at 11:54h, 12 June

    Well done and a very sensible and sound statement. I hope that more politicians will put the good of the country before their own self interests, and I would admire our top leaders a little more if they would have the guts to be as honest as you.

  • Stephen Gosling
    Posted at 11:55h, 12 June

    I admire your integrity sir and feel sure that history puts you on the right side of this argument.

    That the Tory party can have become so absorbed by Nationalism as to forego it’s common-sense approach to business is deeply, deeply saddening.

  • Ben Dornan
    Posted at 11:55h, 12 June

    Top man. Principled, clear thinking and honest, in marked contrast to the shower of disingenuous, self interested sh*te which is the rump of the Tory party at the moment. More like you please.

  • William Gilbert
    Posted at 11:56h, 12 June

    Thank you for your action and your full and thoughtful account of why you have chosen to resign. We can only hope that more of your colleagues come quickly to the same conclusion that you have, and see a way to put tribal allegiances to one side in order to ensure that the people of this country do not end up in a worse position than at present.

  • Mark Haller
    Posted at 11:56h, 12 June

    As an ardent anti Tory, it is rare for me to come across one that shows backbone and moral fibre at the same time. So I salute you on this courageous and clearly difficult decision. Hopefully there are more of you out there.

  • Patrick Smith
    Posted at 11:57h, 12 June

    Strong words and more honest words than I have heard from a Conservative in a long time.
    As I am not an MP and do not have to mince my words, I can afford to be succinct.

    The referendum was called to silence the extreme right of the conservatives. A guaranteed vote winner for Cameron. What it actually did was expose the rotten heart of middle England and it’s xenophobic exceptionalism.

    I promised to be succinct, didn’t I?

    It’s a shit-show!

  • DaveM
    Posted at 11:58h, 12 June

    Thank you for showing how to behave in good conscience. You’re actions are appreciated, perhaps more will follow…

  • Simon Briggs
    Posted at 11:59h, 12 June

    Thank you, I hope others will follow suit! We need the call Brexit out for what it is, a disaster and huge mistake for the UK and will damage all of us

  • Elaine Morgan
    Posted at 11:59h, 12 June

    Thank you for putting the country first. I admire your integrity and just wish all politicians were as honest and visionary as you.

  • Tahlee Johnson
    Posted at 11:59h, 12 June

    Thank you for your principled and difficult decision. Your viewpoint refelects so many of us who are appalled at the way Brexit sees to be heading: up the creek without a paddle. There must be an alternative to a ‘bad deal or no deal’ and Parliament must be able to accept the ‘will of the people’ has shifted. It’s time for an honest analysis of Brexit and whether it’s time to rethink leaving the EU. I myself would welcome a people’s vote and a chance to stay within the EU, as would many others now.

  • christopher clifton
    Posted at 11:59h, 12 June

    Sir you are a hero. I only hope that now you have done the right thing and climbed over the top the rest of the tory and labour troops will follow you. The prime minister may be “sticking to her principles” but when they are so obviously wrong surely it is better to say “on reflection we need more time” rather than continuing like a lemming with no belief in gravity.

  • Christopher Munns
    Posted at 12:00h, 12 June

    Possibly the most sensible thing I have ever heard from a Tory.
    Well done.

  • Dawn Kershaw
    Posted at 12:00h, 12 June

    I applaud your principled stand, you will be able to look your children and your country in the eye with a clear conscience. Shame on any of your fellow MP’s, of all parties, who fail to put country before party.

  • Denis Sauzier
    Posted at 12:00h, 12 June

    Congratulations, Dr Lee, and thank you. So far, we have been overwhelmed by the huge importance of Brexit and the ineptitude of the politicians handling it. Thanks to your leadership and the sheer integrity and clarity of your action today, we can have some hope. Your timing is also spot on.

  • Linda Gilmore
    Posted at 12:01h, 12 June

    Sorry to hear that you have felt no alternative to resign from Government, a man of principles who has put Country before party. . You have my respect and admiration, I am also an ex-Tory voter now, the last few years of a dictatorship in Parliament have been a disaster.

  • Christina Briggs
    Posted at 12:02h, 12 June

    Thank you. I wish there were more MPs like you.

  • Scarlett Farrow
    Posted at 12:03h, 12 June

    Thank you thank you thank you for your integrity in setting an example for other ministers and MPs. You have put your constituents and the nation before yourself and followed the values set for politicians in the U.K.

  • Williams
    Posted at 12:04h, 12 June

    Well done for making the decision to put your own values first. But a government must follow the people’s instructions and those instructions were to leave the EU. I do agree it must be well thought out and that processs does take time but, at the end of the day, the government must follow the will of the majority.

  • Brian turner
    Posted at 12:05h, 12 June

    Thank you. Finally someone has put country before party and themselves. You seem to be one of very few MPs that understand their parliamentary responsibility to act in the National interest, which Brexit certainly is not. You have my utmost respect and gratitude.

  • Chris Bellamy
    Posted at 12:05h, 12 June

    Congratulations on putting country before party and career and showing genuine leadership.

    There is no evidence whatsoever, that there are any benefits to brexit, whatsoever. Just huge cost and risk.

    Were it a business project, it would have been culled at initiation stage. Yet the government and opposition seem determined to press on regardless of the consequences, because a small majority in a glorified opinion poll, thought it was a good idea. Most of whom, had at best, only a scant understanding of the issues..

    I do hope that you can persuade more of your colleagues on both sides of the house to follow your lead.

    Our children will thank you.

  • Richard Walsh
    Posted at 12:06h, 12 June

    At last, an MP with real integrity, one who is capable of thinking for himself and coming up with a perfectly coherent position; an MP for whom the real national interest is the priority, not the tabloid headlines or the dictates of the incompetent ideologues who apparently hold sway in the Tory party at the moment. If there were more MP’s like you , I feel I could have some trust in the political process. As things are, to a committed European, such as myself, it looks increasingly in both the Labour and Tory parties as if the lunatics are running the asylum

  • Rick Huckstep
    Posted at 12:07h, 12 June

    Well done. It could not have been easy but you have put principle before party when those around you are afraid to do so.

  • Rob Williams
    Posted at 12:07h, 12 June

    Thank you for setting an example that other Ministers should follow.

  • Marc davies
    Posted at 12:08h, 12 June

    Thank you Phillip for your moral integrity. Standing up for your beliefs is a courageous act, especially given the supine manner in which many MPs have abrogated responsibility and forgotten the importance of Parliament. You have my sincere respect and best wishes

  • Tony Parry
    Posted at 12:09h, 12 June

    Thank you, sir, for your courage and integrity. There are a number of MPs on both sides that put country before party; we need even more, but you have emerged with the leaders. More power to your elbow.

  • David Murdoch
    Posted at 12:09h, 12 June

    Dear Sir,

    Well done. You act exactly as a representative statesman should.

    Would that you were my constituency MP. Would that more of your colleagues would act with similar integrity and depth of principle.

    With the greatest respect,


  • Tim Steele
    Posted at 12:10h, 12 June

    Thank you for your integrity and commitment. This is a time when MPs can choose to put their country first.

    You are a true patriot. I am sure others will disagree but history will prove you right.

  • Cathy Marsh
    Posted at 12:10h, 12 June

    Thank you for standing by your principles and recognising the folly of the current course.

  • Diane Bowling
    Posted at 12:11h, 12 June

    Thank you for putting your co7ntry first.

  • Katie Dore
    Posted at 12:12h, 12 June

    Congratulations for being that little boy who shouted that the emperor has no clothes!

    Hopefully, you will not be the last

    Chapeau, sir!

  • Susan hart
    Posted at 12:13h, 12 June

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting the country and the peo0le first

  • james v
    Posted at 12:14h, 12 June

    I wish we had you as our MP instead of Liam Fox!

  • Laura Gouvras
    Posted at 12:15h, 12 June

    Thank you for your honesty and integrity! Wish there were mire

  • Sue Bachorski
    Posted at 12:18h, 12 June

    Thank you for taking a moral stand in support of future generations. Finally, an MP who is prepared to act in the greater good and to stand up & be counted.

  • Sarah Blakeney
    Posted at 12:19h, 12 June

    Thank you so much for your selfless act of integrity. You will now be able to look your children and grandchildren in the eye in years to come and state that you did what was right today for them and their generations.

  • rebecca elgey
    Posted at 12:19h, 12 June

    I think you did a very brave thing today and I wish more of our politicians would show the same level of decency.

  • Mark Jones
    Posted at 12:21h, 12 June

    Thank you for your decision/action today. If there were more MPs who understood their responsibilities as you do this county would be a far better place.
    Good to see vast majority of comments here and elsewhere are supportive.
    If your local conservative part are foolish enough to censure you I’ve no doubt there are many others that would be delighted to be represented by you.

  • Jenny Bolt
    Posted at 12:21h, 12 June

    Thank you so much for showing integrity and courage, which gives us, living in France, hope that this almighty mess can be halted.

  • Helene Jelman
    Posted at 12:22h, 12 June

    Thank you Dr Lee for standing up for your principles and putting country above party politics. Your actions today are giving me more faith in our political system, which has been strongly shaken in the last two years. I hope that other MPs from all parties follow your lead and make decisions according to their conscience and for the good of their constituencies and the country.

  • Paul Sanderson
    Posted at 12:24h, 12 June

    Thank you for putting the country first. Well done.

  • Christopher Brunning
    Posted at 12:24h, 12 June

    At last someone in Parliament, has admitted to the shear folly of leaving the EU, only to perpetuate the Thatcherite dreams of her supporters, whose sole aims are to further distribute wealth to the already wealthy.

    Thank you for your service to Society

  • Allan loveday
    Posted at 12:24h, 12 June

    It seems that all the support here is from remainers that don’t actually want to leave the EU. That’s not the point of this resignation. The country’s and his constituents voted to leave. He is resigning about the process that is unfolding. He was elected on the Tory manifesto and should now stand down and seek reelection as an .

  • Alison Brister
    Posted at 12:26h, 12 June

    You have integrity and guts, Dr Lee. I wish you were my MP – and I say that as a Labour Party member n(for now, at least).
    When I compare your statement to hearing David Davis on the Today Programme this morning, effectively claiming that the people voted to issue the Art. 50 notification on 29.03.17, and laughing off all the chaos and uncertainty that we are now facing, it’s clear the wrong man has resigned.

  • Mike Southern
    Posted at 12:26h, 12 June

    I wish you were my MP, you would have my vote f9r your action today…. unfortunately I have Michael Gove, for whom I did not vote and do not support.

  • Eur Ing Graham W Parry CEng., MIMechE
    Posted at 12:26h, 12 June

    Only forward thinking that, on balance, could be better for our children, should be considered. Anything else is selfish idealism.

  • Margaret Ellwood
    Posted at 12:28h, 12 June

    Well said Dr Lee

  • Paul Weir
    Posted at 12:28h, 12 June

    Thank you for putting country before party. A true patriot! Respect.. Protecting our children’s futures instead of re-creating a past we never had.

  • Christine Charlesworth
    Posted at 12:28h, 12 June

    I really wish you were our MP – we have Jeremy Hunt….and lots of brick walls to bang our heads against.

  • Andy Sanderson
    Posted at 12:30h, 12 June

    Well done Dr. Lee – it can’t have been an easy decision. I used to regularly disagree with my late father, a GP and local Tory politician who became Mayor of Colchester, about many things, but I am sure he would have instantly recognised your integrity in this. I often wonder whether he would recognise the current Tory party as anything close to the one he supported, but I am sure that your stand on this issue would have had his approval. Even if not, it certainly has mine. Were there more people such as yourself in the Tory party, I might be minded to more favourably consider voting for it one day. Well done, and good luck.

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