General election 2019: Hart gets Welsh post in government reshuffle

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PA Media

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Simon Hart said he had been given an amazing opportunity

Boris Johnson is carrying out a limited reshuffle of his government after urging newly elected Tory MPs to “change our country for the better”.

Simon Hart has been named as Welsh secretary, replacing Alun Cairns, who quit at the start of the election.

And Nicky Morgan stays as culture secretary, despite standing down as an MP. She is taking a peerage and will sit as a cabinet minister in the Lords.

Most cabinet ministers are staying put following the Tories’ victory.

Chancellor Sajid Javid is staying at the Treasury while Dominic Raab and Priti Patel will carry on as foreign secretary and home secretary respectively, having only been in their jobs since July.

The new PM is expected to carry out wider changes to his top team in February once the UK has left the EU.

There has been unconfirmed speculation he is considering major changes to a number of departments, including the Department for Exiting the European Union, the Home Office and Department for International Development.

Mr Johnson has been getting down to business following last week’s election victory, speaking to foreign leaders, including US President Donald Trump, and filling the small number of outstanding vacancies in his top team.

He has also addressed the 109 Tory MPs elected for the first time last week, including many representing areas that had previously been die-hard Labour territory. At a event in Westminster Hall, he hailed “their incredible achievement”.

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The PM has welcomed the new Conservative MPs to Westminster

“You’ve come from places that the Conservative Party have not been represented for a hundred years, if ever,” he said. “That’s a fantastic tribute to you.

“But it also shows what we’ve got to do now because you have not only changed the political map of this country but you’ve changed our party for the better. What I want to do now is work with you to change our whole country for the better and that is what we’re going to do.”

Ms Morgan took many by surprise when she announced that she would not be standing as MP for Loughborough at the election. However, the former education secretary remained active on the campaign trail, prompting speculation she intended to remain in public life.

The choice of Simon Hart as Welsh secretary marks a big promotion for the 56-year old MP, who was previously a junior Cabinet Office minister.

Reacting to his appointment, Mr Hart said: “It’s great to have this opportunity. I’ve got my orders and I’m going to try and do it as best I can.”

The Welsh post has been vacant since early last month, when Alun Cairns quit over claims he knew about a former aide’s role in the “sabotage” of a rape trial.

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Nicky Morgan stood down as MP for Loughborough at the general election

Mr Hart and Ms Morgan both backed Remain in the 2016 referendum but have been strong supporters of the PM’s Brexit deal.

Downing Street has said the government plans to ask the new Parliament to have its first debate and vote on the PM’s withdrawal agreement – the legislation needed to ratify Brexit – on Friday.

A spokesman said it planned to start the process of getting the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament in the “proper constitutional way”.

With a Commons majority of 80, the PM is expected to get the bill into law with few changes in time for the UK to leave the EU on 31 January.

Before that, the PM will set out his legislative plans for the year ahead in a Queen’s Speech on Thursday.

Elsewhere, Downing Street added that the PM had spoken to President Trump, who congratulated him on his election victory.

They discussed the “huge importance” of the UK-US relationship and looked forward to “continued close co-operation” on issues such as security and the negotiation of an “ambitious free trade agreement”.

And moves to get the Northern Ireland government at Stormont up and running again have resumed, with talks restarting on Monday.

What will happen this week?

Tuesday

Proceedings begin when MPs gather for their first duty: to elect the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who replaced John Bercow in November. Technically, MPs can hold a vote on this motion but this has never happened in practice.

Later in the day, the Speaker will begin the process of swearing in MPs, who are required to take an oath of allegiance to the Crown, or, if they object to this, a solemn affirmation. Those who speak or vote without having done so are deprived of their seat “as if they were dead” under the Parliamentary Oaths Act of 1866.

Two to three days are usually set aside for this process.

Thursday

The state opening of Parliament. The Queen’s Speech is the centrepiece of this, when she will read a speech written by ministers setting out the government’s programme of legislation for the parliamentary session. A couple of hours after the speech is delivered, MPs will begin debating its contents – a process which usually takes days.

Friday

Depending on how rapidly Boris Johnson wants to move, the debate on the Queen’s Speech could continue into Friday.

The government will introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill – the legislation that will implement Brexit – to Parliament.

MPs in the previous Parliament backed Mr Johnson’s bill at its first stage but rejected his plan to fast-track the legislation through Parliament in three days in order to leave the EU by the then Brexit deadline of 31 October.

After the debate on the Queen’s Speech is concluded, MPs will vote on whether to approve it. Not since 1924 has a government’s Queen Speech been defeated.