Saturday 19 October 2019

Bercow tells government not to 'degrade' parliament as he reveals he'll quit as speaker


Standing down: House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. Photo: AFP PHOTO / JESSICA TAYLOR / UK Parliament
Standing down: House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. Photo: AFP PHOTO / JESSICA TAYLOR / UK Parliament

William James

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, champion of Britain's parliament in its move to rein in Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Brexit, said yesterday he would stand down, issuing a warning to the government not to "degrade" parliament.

Mr Bercow, known for his thundering cries of "Order! Order!" and his scathing put-downs of misbehaving lawmakers, has been the target of fury from Mr Johnson's government, which accused him of breaking rules to let lawmakers force a delay to the UK's exit from the EU.

With less than two months until the UK's most important political decision in decades, Mr Bercow, whose position is formally meant to be neutral, helped give lawmakers the chance to strip control of the outcome away from the government. Last week, lawmakers defeated Mr Johnson to pass a law ordering him to seek a delay from the October 31 Brexit deadline.

In the speech announcing his plan to resign, Mr Bercow fixed his gaze on the benches where ministers sit and delivered a direct warning to the government: "We degrade this parliament at our peril."

Mr Bercow (56) was given a standing ovation from many members of the lower house as he announced his plan to stand down in the coming weeks - particularly by those on the opposition benches.

"When the history books come to be written, you will be described as one of the great reforming speakers of the House of Commons," said opposition Labour Party lawmaker Hilary Benn, who led the passage of the law to try to stop a no-deal Brexit.

"In every decision you have made, you have put one consideration above everything else: your wish to enable the House of Commons to discuss matters and to have a view."

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson's Government has been told to publish communications connected to prorogation and no-deal Brexit planning after MPs supported an emergency Commons motion.

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve's demand for all written and electronic contact about the temporary suspension of Parliament and Operation Yellowhammer documents since July 23 to be released was approved by 311 votes to 302, a majority of nine.

Mr Grieve, now sitting as an independent MP after losing his place in the Tory party, said public officials had given him information relating to prorogation that informed him "they believed the handling of this matter smacked of scandal".

Mr Grieve's motion asked for all correspondence and communications connected to the present government since July 23 relating to prorogation.

Late last night, Boris Johnson lost his sixth vote in as many days after his second bid for a snap election ahead of the Brexit deadline failed to get the required two-thirds majority of MPs.

Mr Johnson said that he would go to Brussels on October 17 and "strive to get a deal in the national interest" as parliament was suspended for five weeks last night.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News