Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Hunt says he would keep Karen Bradley as Secretary of State

Conservative party leadership contender Jeremy Hunt during a Tory leadership hustings in Belfast. Photo credit: Peter Morrison/PA Wire
Conservative party leadership contender Jeremy Hunt during a Tory leadership hustings in Belfast. Photo credit: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

Tory leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has said that he would keep Karen Bradley as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he becomes Prime Minister.

The Foreign Secretary made the comment at the Belfast leg of the Tory leadership hustings on Tuesday.

Mr Hunt was asked by a member of the audience if he would keep Mrs Bradley in his cabinet should he win the position of PM.

There had been speculation that Mrs Bradley would be replaced in the role after a controversy-laden spell as Secretary of State.

However, Mr Hunt said that he would keep her in position.

At the hustings, Mr Hunt's rival Boris Johnson rejected speculation in the Telegraph that the position of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland could be merged with another cabinet post.

Mr Johnson said that he would appoint a Northern Ireland Secretary if he becomes PM but declined to say if it would be Mrs Bradley.

"What the Telegraph said was that I was being urged to do that. And no one took the trouble to urge me in person before telling the Telegraph they were urging me to do it," he said.

"Whatever urgings were taking place they were not directed personally at me."

Addressing the issue of Stormont talks, Mr Hunt said that he believed the new Prime Minister needed to play a greater role in the talks process.

Karen Bradley (Liam McBurney/PA)
Karen Bradley (Liam McBurney/PA)

"First of all it's totally unacceptable that politicians who are paid to run the NHS, to run the schools, to promote inward investment are not turning up to work and doing their job," the Foreign Secretary said.

"We have to be absolutely clear, this is a big abdication of responsibility and they need to get back to delivering what was a fundamental tenet of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement which was the devolved assembly.

"What would I do as prime minister? Well, I think the lesson of that historic achievement back in 1998 is that the only way to do this is with the personal involvement of the Prime Minister.

"I think Theresa May has been very committed to Northern Ireland and to the union but I give you this commitment that I too as Prime Minister will put in the time personally to get that assembly back up and running."

Mrs Bradley has become embroiled in controversy on a number of occasions since taking over as Secretary of State in January 2018.

In September last year she admitted in an interview with House magazine that she had not fully understood politics in Northern Ireland before becoming Secretary of State.

"I didn't understand things like when elections are fought, for example, in Northern Ireland – people who are nationalists don’t vote for unionist parties and vice versa," she said.

Mrs Bradley faced calls from victims families to resign in March after saying in the House of Commons that Troubles killings by members of the security forces were "not crimes".

She later said that any evidence of wrongdoing should always be invesitgated.

The Secretary was also accused of using victims of historical institutional abuse as "political pawns" when she suggested compensation should become part of party talks at Stormont.

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