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
  • Mark Harrison
    Posted at 13:59h, 12 June

    Well done for having the courage to act on your diagnosis. I wish that more politicians and media organisations were prepared to reach conclusions based on evidence & logic rather than fantasy, dogma & attention-seeking.

    You gov polls indicate that the Government does not have the support of the majority of the now more enlightened electorate. Time to stop and rethink before more damage is done.

  • Matthew Davies
    Posted at 14:02h, 12 June

    Well done, and thank you for giving a much needed lead. Your statement is pretty much what any thinking person might say, had they not been pushing their own political, personal, or tribal interests. You have done a rare thing today – acted with irreproachable integrity, and incidentally given me one of the few moments of respect for a politician, of any party, that I have felt in a long time. You’ve done the right thing, and I’m sure you will be the better for it in the long term, when you will have been proven to be right.

  • Hans Blomeier
    Posted at 14:05h, 12 June

    My deepest respect for this tough decision ! Being consequent and honest are two fundamental human qualities not often seen in politicians.

  • GR
    Posted at 14:11h, 12 June

    Very well said!

  • Diana Franklin
    Posted at 14:12h, 12 June

    I am full of admiration for you. I have been so dismayed by the lack of integrity shown by so many politicians at this crucial stage in our country’s history. parliament can surely see the damage that Brexit is already doing to the country yet how many have the guts to stand up and say so. I have written to Mike Freer, our local MP, repeatedly, asking him to tell the government that his constituency, full of remainers are being let down. He responds with platitudes every time telling me that the country voted for Brexit and Brexit will be delivered by the Tories!! Well done Sir! We need more like you

  • Graham Howard
    Posted at 14:14h, 12 June

    Let us hope that other representatives will show the courage to recognise that their constituents best interests will be served by opposing the catastrophe that is Brexit.

  • Hilary Steele
    Posted at 14:24h, 12 June

    THANK YOU. So refreshing to a statement which is so clear and based on public service rather than self-promotion. The sadness is that the MoJ loses a principled and committed minister; nonetheless, thank you for speaking truth to power and to the people.

  • Gary Phillips
    Posted at 14:25h, 12 June

    Why can’t we turn back the clock? The British people were lied to, and should be entitled a return to normality.

  • Martin Fletcher
    Posted at 14:30h, 12 June

    Congratulations, Mr Lee. If only more of your Conservative colleagues shared your courage….

  • Dominic Freeland
    Posted at 14:30h, 12 June

    “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” (Psalm 18:34)
    ‘National interest, collective responsibility, must hand our children a better legacy..’ exactly!
    What a great letter. Your actions of course speak louder than words. I hope your brave resignation is not in vain.

  • Sarah Barnes
    Posted at 14:32h, 12 June

    Thank you and your children will be very proud of you taking a stand against this shambles.

  • Sarah Barnes
    Posted at 14:32h, 12 June

    Thank you and your children will be very proud of you taking a stand against this shambles.

  • Ian Spittle
    Posted at 14:33h, 12 June

    Well done, you have acted in a way that many in parliament wish they could also do but are to afraid to follow their conscience.

  • HAZEL WILKINSON
    Posted at 14:36h, 12 June

    I wish we had. a lot more people like you everything. you said made sense. I wish you well in all you do

  • Arthur Biagi
    Posted at 14:37h, 12 June

    I hugely respect your principled action . I am sure your constituents will reward your stance on this important national matter .

  • Neil MacGregor
    Posted at 14:43h, 12 June

    Dear Dr. Lee as a constituent I had to write and thank you for taking the difficult decision to resign from your ministerial post.

    Brexit is a shambles, everyone knows that deep down inside, but at least you have had the guts to speak up!!

  • Juliet England
    Posted at 14:45h, 12 June

    Sir I salute you, incredibly brave. Thank you.

  • Jon Evens
    Posted at 14:45h, 12 June

    Thank you so much for taking the brave step to do the right thing. I hope that our MP Oliver Heald will take the same courageous decision.

  • Leigh Quigg
    Posted at 14:47h, 12 June

    Wow! As a local member of the LibDems I have criticised you on many occasions, however for this I totally commend you. Thank you for doing the right thing for your constituents , for local businesses & putting them and your family first.

  • Leigh Quigg
    Posted at 14:47h, 12 June

    Wow! As a local member of the LibDems I have criticised you on many occasions, however for this I totally commend you. Thank you for doing the right thing for your constituents , for local businesses & putting them and your family first.

  • Avril Knapman
    Posted at 14:52h, 12 June

    Well done for acknowledging that this Brexit is a fiasco that no one voted for, even leavers are not happy as they all have different views on what was on the ballot paper. We need more MPs to stand up and do their job, which is to act in the best interest of the country before constituents and their party.

  • Steve Boother
    Posted at 14:55h, 12 June

    I commend your vigour as a member of parliament showing strong integrity and the nous to stand up for what is clearly the right thing to do. To resign is never a straight forward position, there are always lots of factors to be borne in mind, but your clear and succinct statement provides more common sense than I’ve heard at any point since the 2016 referendum. Congratulations on having the courage of your convictions, and I wish you well on the back benches.

  • Valerio Bianconi
    Posted at 14:56h, 12 June

    You helped me and my family already even though I am not eligible to vote at the general elections, which tells a lot about your level of integrity.

    Your decision to quit your role makes me sad because this community will loose such a great MP, although I utterly respect your consistency with your ideas and values.

    Thank you for raising your voice to tell people the truth on Brexit.

  • Linda Wareham
    Posted at 15:03h, 12 June

    “To thine own self be true” said Shakespeare.. and you have been.. Congratulations. An example to others.

  • Chris Hayes
    Posted at 15:04h, 12 June

    Not my party, but my MP…ch

  • David Wellings
    Posted at 15:08h, 12 June

    Eloquently stated! Excellent!

  • heather
    Posted at 15:19h, 12 June

    Well Done

  • Graham Jenkinson
    Posted at 15:22h, 12 June

    Thank you for your commitment to your conscience – future generations will be most grateful.

  • John Finnigan
    Posted at 15:25h, 12 June

    Truly an inspiring decision based on what you think is right for your constituents and your country. A true public servant in the truest sense. I only hope you can continue to show strong leadership and sound judgement in future public service. Well done sir!

  • Robert Wheatley
    Posted at 15:28h, 12 June

    Thank you for your principled stand. I hope that your example is noted by others, of all parties. Only that way will we see any return to sane civilised politics.

  • Jacky O'Callaghan
    Posted at 15:31h, 12 June

    Brexit is the biggest mistake this country ever made.
    Thank you for your honesty and integrity. I hope others follow suit and show this so-called government that their dog-in-the-manger attitude does no good to anyone.

  • Don Church
    Posted at 15:35h, 12 June

    Thank you. I am not a constituent of yours, however I do wish my MP had a modicum of your integrity.

  • Tarit Mitra
    Posted at 15:36h, 12 June

    Well done Dr. Lee for bravely taking a stand for the future of our constuency and country. I wish more of your colleagues will do the same but in doing this you may show them that the tide of common sense over party politics on this issue is finally turning.

  • David Killen
    Posted at 15:45h, 12 June

    Thank you for taking this courageous stand. Particularly in the face of today’s disgraceful front page headline in the Express. I wish you well and I hope that others will have the courage to follow your lead.

  • David Killen
    Posted at 15:45h, 12 June

    Thank you for taking this courageous stand. Particularly in the face of today’s disgraceful front page headline in the Express. I wish you well and I hope that others will have the courage to follow your lead.

  • Ian Finch
    Posted at 15:45h, 12 June

    So good to see a man of honour and MP put the country before themselves and their party. We were led to believe that one of the reasons for this act of self harm was to bring back control to our sovereign parliament, not to put more power in the hands of a few at the expense of the nation.

  • Harriet Every
    Posted at 15:53h, 12 June

    Thank you for standing up for parliamentary democracy and having the courage to put principle before party

  • Sue Mansi
    Posted at 15:58h, 12 June

    Good man. We need more like you. Thank you for acting with such integrity.

  • Murray Kirkby
    Posted at 16:03h, 12 June

    One of the few Honourable members left in this sham of a Parliament.
    I commend you on your stand and hope it gives others the courage to break ranks and end this disastrous course that the country is pursuing.

  • Julia Frascona
    Posted at 16:05h, 12 June

    Well done! You have stood up for what is right, not for your own career but for the country & our future.

  • Lorna Cotton
    Posted at 16:07h, 12 June

    Thank you Dr Lee, I only wish others had your integrity.

  • Belinda Pierce
    Posted at 16:14h, 12 June

    Thank you for taking such a principled stand. You are completely correct in your analysis and I wish more MPs would be as courageous. Thank you.

  • Tony Poll
    Posted at 16:19h, 12 June

    Thank you for displaying honest and integrity and placing your country first. You are an excellent example to other MPs who should speak out when confronted with a very difficult situation, and place logic and rational analysis above dogma.

  • Andrew Nolan
    Posted at 16:29h, 12 June

    Thank you for actions today, I am a local constituent and relieved that my MP is able to represent my views in parliament. Good luck and well done for making a stand.

  • Philip Hood
    Posted at 16:29h, 12 June

    Well done. We need politicians who are prepared to stick to their principles. I hope that others will join you and that you can work for a real partnership with Europe.

  • v parker
    Posted at 16:35h, 12 June

    Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth. You have my respect. Having campaigned since the referendum result I hope finally we get a say on whatever the final ‘deal’ is, with an option to remain. The consequences of brexit terrify me. Please continue to speak out.

  • Debbie Stowe
    Posted at 16:40h, 12 June

    Thank you for your courage, integrity and selflessness. I hope that more of your colleagues will follow your brave lead, rather than cravenly acquiesing while our country stumbles towards a profound mistake.

  • Dwyryd Williams
    Posted at 16:40h, 12 June

    Some common sense at last! Extremely well said, sir,

  • susan Farmiloe
    Posted at 16:40h, 12 June

    Your action is admirable. Your children will indeed thank you. You have much support.

  • Mike Robbins
    Posted at 16:45h, 12 June

    Thank you for this principled decision, and for the excellent statement above. I am no Tory, but this is an issue that transcends party divisions, and you have my wholehearted support.

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