Tories walk out after spy question is denied

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The entire Conservative group walked out of a full Portsmouth City Council meeting in protest after a question about Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock was not answered.

The Tory members staged the walkout yesterday after the council refused to allow a question on spy allegations made about Mr Hancock's parliamentary assistant, Ekaterina Zatuliveter.

Tory leader Cllr Steve Wemyss tried to ask whether Cllr Hancock had made decisions or revealed information which could have risked the security of Portsmouth, its residents or the navy.

Cllr Wemyss led his group from the chamber after his query went unanswered.

He said: 'This is a matter of local and national importance. We intend to take no further part in today's meeting as a measure of our concern and disapproval.'

Council officers ruled the question had not been submitted in time to be considered.

Cllr Mike Hancock described the walk-out as a pantomime.

He said: 'It's the right season for it. I hope they find a venue of an appropriate size. If they wanted this answered, they could have asked me. I haven't asked any questions which would place anyone in danger, especially not this city.'

After the meeting Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'The matters to be debated were important. The regeneration of Somers Town, protection from bad licensed premises and building new sheltered accommodation. I'm amazed the Conservatives don't think these are important enough for them to attend meetings. It was a petty political gesture.

'We're running a 580m business. It's not a school debating society and I think Portsmouth residents would appreciate it if their councillors didn't play silly games.'

But Cllr Wemyss said: 'We agree with the policies which were to be debated. We weren't going to argue against them so we didn't need to be there. We're confused the question wasn't allowed. The matter only arose after the deadline of Friday, December 3, had passed and we don't understand why the leader couldn't have answered a simple question.'