As you will know, there are 650 MPs in the House of Commons. One is the Speaker, who is neutral, and there are 7 Sinn Fein MPs, who, as Irish nationalists, have never taken their seats in Parliament. That leaves 642, meaning that any government needs to secure the support of at least 322 MPs to command a majority in the House of Commons.
The Conservative Party currently has 315 MPs, seven short of the required number. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party (SNP) both ruled out going into coalition with the Conservatives. Even if the Labour Party had been able to construct a coalition involving the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party in 2017, their combined total would have only been 314 MPs, eight short of a majority. This means that they too would have needed to work with the DUP in order to form a government.
The Prime Minister did not seek to form a coalition with the DUP, as David Cameron did with the Liberal Democrats in 2010. Instead, the two parties have finalised an agreement based on ‘confidence and supply’, which means that the DUP will support the Conservatives if there were a motion of ‘no confidence’ in the Government. They will also support the budget through the House of Commons. If a government fails to pass its budget or loses a vote of no confidence, then a general election has to be called.
Whilst I was honoured and delighted that the people of Taunton Deane re-elected me as their MP, there is no getting away from the fact that the results were disappointing for the Conservative Party and there will be a far-reaching review on why we didn’t do better. However, with the most seats and most votes, we have a duty to form a Government. At this critical time, our country needs a government, and the failure to create one would have lead to another general election very quickly, which I do not believe is what people want.
I note the concerns that you have raised about the DUP and I am quite clear that there are views that the Party holds with which I disagree. Although abortion laws are not perfect I believe abortion should be available to women. I believe that we should continue to reduce the impact of climate change which has a significant impact not just on this country but around the world and the Conservatives are determined to further our climate change commitments, including ratification of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, I referred to this in the chamber this week. We will continue to promote and champion equal rights including those of the LGBTQ community. Conservatives in Government introduced same sex marriage and, earlier this year, passed ‘Turing’s law’ to remove historic convictions for consensual acts.
The Prime Minister’s two key staff have left and a new Chief of Staff, Gavin Barwell has been appointed. He will bring considerable experience to the post and will have an important role directing our future. I will continue to stay involved in discussions with Government Ministers on the issues you raise. I would like to be clear that there will be no compromises on any of the key issues of LGBTQ and equality, women’s rights or climate change and environmental policy.