Rishi Sunak would take over running the country if Foreign Secretary falls ill - No 10

Yorkshire MP Rishi Sunak would take over the running of the Government if Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was taken ill, Downing Street has confirmed.

Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 1:23 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th April 2020, 1:32 pm

Mr Raab was asked to deputise for the Prime Minister as he was taken into intensive care last night with coronavirus.

And Mr Johnson’s official spokesman today confirmed that if Mr Raab was also taken ill, the Chancellor would be next in line.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister was “stable” after spending the night in the ICU, and that he had not been diagnosed with pneumonia or had to use a ventilator.

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Chancellor and Richmond MP Rishi Sunak. Photo: PA

Instead he had been receiving “standard oxygen treatment”.

Mr Johnson was transferred to the intensive care unit at St Thomas’ Hospital, London, on Monday evening, after his condition deteriorated.

His spokesman said the move was a “precautionary step” in case he needed to be put on a ventilator.

“The Prime Minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits,” the spokesman said.

“He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance.

“He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support.”

Mr Johnson was originally admitted to St Thomas’ on Sunday on the advice of his doctor after continuing to display symptoms of cough and high temperature ten days after testing positive for the virus.

The PM’s spokesman said: “(Under the) established order of precedence, the Prime Minister has appointed the Foreign Secretary as his First Secretary of State.

“In line with the order of precedence, the Chancellor would follow from the Foreign Secretary.”

Downing Street said it would look into whether to publish the list for the order of precedence for other Cabinet ministers.

Asked about reports of Mr Raab seen coughing on Tuesday morning, the spokesman added: “The Foreign Secretary is fine.”

Mr Raab and the Cabinet would be able to take military action without the consent of the Prime Minister after the Foreign Secretary was asked to deputise for Mr Johnson, Downing Street said.

Mr Raab, as First Secretary of State, would chair any meeting of the National Security Council.

But weekly calls between Number 10 and the Queen will not take place while the Prime Minister is receiving treatment in intensive care.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Buckingham Palace and Her Majesty the Queen have been kept regularly informed about the Prime Minister’s condition and that will continue.

“The Cabinet Secretary and the Prime Minister’s principal private secretary will continue their contacts with the Royal Household on the Prime Minister’s behalf.”

Asked whether Mr Raab would field any phone calls with the Queen, the spokesman added: “No, it has been agreed with the Royal Household that weekly audiences will not go ahead.”

Conservative MP Peter Bone earlier said a succession list detailing who replaces an incapacitated prime minister should be guaranteed in law.

Mr Bone welcomed the Government’s foresight to have Mr Raab as Mr Johnson’s formal deputy after the PM was admitted to intensive care following a worsening of his coronavirus symptoms.

But the MP for Wellingborough said there was a need for legal certainty.

Mr Bone’s Prime Minister (Temporary Replacement) Bill could be debated in the Commons this summer and he hopes MPs will support his proposal, which he has moved several times previously over the years.

Mr Bone said: “The first thing I’d want to say is my thoughts and prayers, and I’m sure those of my constituents, are for Boris and Carrie and hoping they will make a speedy recovery.

“The second point is there had been an ad hoc arrangement put in place so that Dominic Raab became effectively Prime Minister, he’s effectively Prime Minister at the moment, and I’m pleased that happened so there isn’t an immediate crisis.

“But what my Bill tries to do is set out in law the succession – it could have said Foreign Secretary, Chancellor, and so on – as there has to be a question mark if Dominic Raab was to fall ill, who would take over?

“It’s to give certainty to the situation and it is what it says, a temporary prime minister replacement.

“As in the circumstances with Boris, who will I expect be off work for I guess a number of weeks while he recovers, he will then go back to being Prime Minister as soon as he gets better, but in between people need to know who’s in charge.

“Thankfully the Government had sense to put this in place but if they hadn’t have done that, we don’t know who would have been in charge.

“There should be a formal situation, like there is in the United States of America – where you know if the President is incapacitated temporarily then who is the next person who takes over.”

Mr Bone said he had never understood the UK’s reluctance to take similar steps as emergency situations require an immediate answer over who is in charge.

He went on: “I think my Bill is listed for July 10. I hope we will make some more progress this time and people will support it, but the key thing is for Boris to get better and I shall be clapping (in support) at 8 o’clock tonight.”

Mr Bone said he had been raising the issue since the days of the New Labour governments, adding: “The closest I ever got to why they don’t do it is ‘If I told you why I’d be breaking the Official Secrets Act’, so I’ve no idea what that meant.”