PM goes missing

MPs told Truss ‘detained on urgent business’

Penny Mordaunt: ‘you’ll have to make do with me’

There was uproar in the Commons today when Prime Minister Liz Truss failed to appear, leaving Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt, to explain that she had been “detained on urgent business”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer put an “urgent question”, asking if the Prime Minister would make a statement on the replacement of the chancellor of the exchequer during the current economic turmoil.

But Ms Mordaunt, speaking from the despatch box, told the Speaker: “With apologies to the House, the Prime Minister is detained on urgent business.”

She added: I’m afraid you will have to make do with me.”

Sir Keir joked: “I guess under this Tory government everybody gets to be Prime Minister for 15 minutes”.

He added that now was the time for leaders to lead. He asked about the prime minister’s whereabouts and, recollecting Lady Thatcher’s famous phrase, he said: “The lady is not for turning… up.”

He said the Prime Minister has sacked her chancellor, but had not explained why.

“How can Britain get the stability it needs when all government offers is grotesque chaos?” he said.

Ms Mordaunt responded to Sir Keir by saying she is “quietly confident the leader of the opposition will not have his 15 minutes as prime minister”.

The reason for Ms Truss’s absence turned out to be a meeting with Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee. Sources said that the meeting was routine and had been arranged before Kwarteng’s dismissal, prompting talk that she merely wanted to avoid answering Sir Keir’s urgent question (UQ).

Ms Truss arrived in the House an hour after the session began and just before the Chancellor began his statement. She left half an hour later without speaking, as MPs shouted ‘bye’.

Number 10 later issued statement saying Liz Truss was “determined to do what’s best for the country”.

The Downing Street press secretary also said “no PM has answered a UQ since 2012”.

There are no plans for a further reshuffle, he added. Ms Truss later apologised for her “mistakes” and repeated that the government had cut taxes too quickly. She insisted she would lead the Conservative Party into the 2024 general election.

“I remain committed to the vision but we will have to deliver it in a different way,” she said.

Mr Hunt announced that he is creating a new council of economic advisers – including George Osborne’s former chief of staff Rupert Harrison – which would be independent of government.

After confirming his earlier tax cut reversals, and in a further signal of his grip on power, he said Ms Truss’s previously firm stance against windfall taxes were not “off the table”.

He also suggested that the triple lock on pensions could be back up for grabs, saying he was not ruling out any changes to make sure the UK can “pay its way”. 

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