Britain

PM floats plan for Supreme Court judges to be vetted by MPs

Supreme Court judges should be vetted by MPs in a US-style system, Boris Johnson has suggested as he prepared to open this week's Conservative Party conference.

The prime minister said the plan "will take a while to be worked through" but that after 11 justices found he unlawfully suspended parliament there was "an argument" they should face "accountability".

He is still facing pressure after being referred to the police watchdog for his links to a US businesswoman and accused by former chancellor Philip Hammond of being backed by bankers who have bet on a no-deal Brexit that will send the pound "tumbling".

Image: Boris Johnson arrived in Manchester ahead of the conference launch on Saturday

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph ahead of the annual Conservative conference starting in Manchester, Mr Johnson doubled down on his language some MPs warned could incite violence against them for trying to stop a no-deal Brexit.

He refused to be "bullied" into stopping calling the law forcing him to ask Brussels to delay Brexit to avoid leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement a "surrender".

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His language so far has been "moderate", the prime minister also told the paper.

New policies unveiled as thousands of Tory activists gather for their annual meeting include money to "transform community mental health services" and £600m to grow life science companies developing life saving treatments in the UK.

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And the government will pledge to build 40 new hospitals – six immediately, with a further 21 getting an early cash injection to kick-start their proposals and the rest open for bidding.

Mr Johnson appeared to support the Supreme Court being transformed after his Attorney General Geoffrey Cox mooted the idea in parliament this week.

Conservative Party conference
Image: MPs and activists are gathering for the annual event

Mr Cox said on Wednesday that "there may very well need to be parliamentary scrutiny of judicial appointments" – although cautioned he was "not enthusiastic" about the idea.

But the prime minister went one step further and told the Sunday Telegraph: "It will take a while to be worked through. But I think, if judges are to pronounce on political questions in this way, then there is at least an argument that there should be some form of accountability.

"The lessons of America are relevant."

He added he would "respect" the Supreme Court's judgement "very humbly and very sincerely", but warned: "I don't think that the consequences of that judgement have yet been fully evaluated."

Lady Hale
Image: The attorney general backed the idea of a US-style Supreme Court vetting process

Mr Johnson also said he would not stop using the term "surrender act" to describe the law trying to block no-deal.

He said: "I won't be bullied off use of that term. It seems to me a perfectly humdrum political metaphor…

"I think my language was really quite moderate."

Back home, Mr Johnson is facing more bids to force him to obey the law, including one which could see him impeached using an arcane parliamentary mechanism.

Plaid Cymru leader Liz Saville-Roberts said: "Motions are being discussed between opposition parties and House of Commons officials that would see a salary cut, bans from parliament and other disciplinary measures, alongside a motion to explore impeachment."

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