David Burrowes has resigned as the PPS to the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson.
In his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, Mr Burrowes said:
The removal of my ruptured appendix and stay in hospital this week has given me time to reflect upon the priorities for the coming 11 months.
It has been an immense privilege to support as Parliamentary Private Secretary Francis Maude, Oliver Letwin and now Owen Paterson in their significant contributions to the Government. Francis’ mastery of the inner and outer workings of government and clear purpose in driving down the costs of government have been significant and transformative.
Oliver’s unique qualities and intellect have been invaluable to make the Government’s programme work, and I have particularly appreciated being directly involved in the cross government work of supporting recovery from addictions to alcohol and drugs. Finally, my two years with Owen have taken me into unfamiliar rural terrain but with Owen very familiar Conservative principles and application in focussing DEFRA on improving the environment and growing the economy.
It has been very instructive to see first-hand your Ministers having such a firm grasp and command of their portfolios. Particularly my time with Owen has made me see his crucial leadership on issues of concern to the countryside at this time and his authentically Conservative approach to the environment.
I now wish to focus my attention in the remaining time of this Parliament on what is in the best interests of my constituents, and our Party. I have concluded that it is the right time to resign as a PPS and return fully to the backbenches. It will give me the freedom and opportunity to work on issues like knife crime where I am leading with Nick de Bois MP an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill for mandatory sentences. I look forward to being on the backbenches to serve my constituents of Enfield Southgate and support the priority of economic and social recovery which needs the return of a Conservative Government in 2015.
Through no fault of his own Mr Paterson has had some difficulty retaining PPSs. Stewart Jackson resigned after the EU referendum rebellion in 2011. Then Conor Burns resigned over House of Lords reform.
In any event the resignation of Mr Burrowes raises the broader question of why an MP should wish to serve the Government in such a post. The attraction would be a wish for further promotion – or a genuine interest in the subject or loyal devotion to the Minister they work for. However, taking on the role constrains them from making any criticism of the Government. It is also more work without any more money.
Speaker Bercow makes a point of insulting the role. Mr Bercow (repeatedly) says the role of a PPS is to “nod his head in the appropriate places and fetch and carry little notes.” That might be part of the role. Another part is to ensure that Ministers keep in touch with the views of their MPs – and thus the wider electorate – rather than being entirely surrounded by bureaucrats .
One might have thought that the broader role would be one that The Speaker would respect.
One might also have thought that given The Speaker gets £142,162 a year from the taxpayer (plus a free house) – he would show better manners to those who put in extra public service on their basic MP’s salary.
Instead this modest check and balance to our constitution faces unfortunate denigration.