City Tories stage walkout over Hancock spy question

Andy Elmes on stage with the church band.''Picture Credit: Keith Woodland

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

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

Tory leader Cllr Steve Wemyss wanted to ask whether Mr Hancock had asked many questions at Parliament which could have put the security of Portsmouth or its residents at risk.

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

He said: 'I asked for assurance over a matter of importance to the city and I and other Conservative members are unable to remain in this meeting until that question is answered.'

City solicitor Michael Mawther told The News the question had not been considered because it had not been submitted in time to comply with council rules.

Cllr Mike Hancock described the walk out as a pantomime.

He said: 'It's the right season for it. I wouldn't expect anybody would be more interested to watch that than they would the show at The Kings.

'But I hope the can find a venue of an appropriate size.'

He added: 'If they wanted this question answered so badly they could just have asked me and I would have given them an answer.'

After the meeting Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'There were a large number of important items to be debated. The regeneration of Somers Town, protection from bad licensing practice and the building of new sheltered accommodation across the city.

'I am amazed the Conservative group don't believe these to be important enough for them to remain in meetings.

'It was a petty political gesture. We are trying to run a 580m business. It is 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 were in agreement with the policies which were to be debated. We were not going to argue against any of them so we didn't need to be there.

'We are very confused that the question was not allowed to be asked. 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.'