Com­mons Speaker Ber­cow ac­cused of flout­ing rules to thwart Brexit

Daily Express - - Front Page - By Sam Lis­ter Deputy Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

COM­MONS Speaker John Ber­cow was last night told to quit af­ter “dis­grace­fully” flout­ing par­lia­men­tary rules to help Re­main­ers seize more con­trol over Brexit.

Ex-min­is­ters, con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts and re­spected for­mer Speaker Betty Boothroyd

united in a cho­rus of anger over the Com­mons “stitch-up” that led to a Gov­ern­ment de­feat.

Mr Ber­cow faced ques­tions about his im­par­tial­ity af­ter de­fy­ing con­ven­tions to al­low a con­tro­ver­sial vote that will force Theresa May’s hand if she fails to win sup­port for her EU exit deal next week. The move floored No 10, which

had been ad­vised against the rules, and led to a “stand-up row” be­tween Chief Whip Ju­lian Smith and Mr Ber­cow.

And the Com­mons cham­ber erupted in jeers as the Speaker claimed he was sim­ply “try­ing to do the right thing”.

Con­ser­va­tive Mar­cus Fysh, who sits on the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion and con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs com­mit­tee, said Mr Ber­cow was no longer fit to hold the of­fice of Speaker.

He said: “It has com­pletely un­der­mined the pro­ce­dures of the House. He did it be­cause he’s a Re­mainer.

“I think he is par­tial and that is a dis­grace. What he should do is step down. He needs to think very hard about what he has done to­day.”

Mr Fysh said Mr Ber­cow’s ac­tions were a con­sti­tu­tional “night­mare” be­cause he had shown that a Speaker can ig­nore con­ven­tions and “just do what they like”.

Mr Ber­cow is un­der­stood to have de­fied the ad­vice of im­par­tial of­fi­cials to al­low MPs to vote on an amend­ment that will force the Prime Min­is­ter to re­turn to Par­li­awarned: ment with a Brexit “Plan B” within three days if her deal is de­feated next Tues­day.

The pro­posal, by Tory for­mer min­is­ter Do­minic Grieve, a lead­ing Re­mainer, led to Mrs May’s se­cond de­feat in 24 hours af­ter she lost the vote 308-297.

Pre­vi­ously, the Gov­ern­ment had three weeks to bring new pro­pos­als if it lost the mean­ing­ful vote. Baroness Boothroyd said Mr Ber­cow had failed to “come clean” and be “hon­est” with the Com­mons.

She said: “He put clerks in an in­vid­i­ous po­si­tion. He gave the im­pres­sion they went along with him. He didn’t come clean with the House.”

For­mer Tory min­is­ter Crispin Blunt said Mr Ber­cow must now “re­flect” on his po­si­tion, as he was no longer seen as neu­tral. He “Not least be­cause you gave your opin­ion and your vote on the is­sue of Brexit pub­licly, we will have an un­shake­able con­vic­tion that the ref­eree is no longer neu­tral.

“I just in­vite you to re­flect on the con­clu­sion that many of us will have in­evitably have come to.” Com­mons Leader An­drea Lead­som chal­lenged Mr Ber­cow to pro­duce the “full ad­vice” from Com­mons clerk Sir David Nat­zler and oth­ers.

The Speaker said he was given guid­ance “pri­vately, and that’s ab­so­lutely proper” and re­fused to con­firm his de­ci­sion was agreed by Sir David.

Tory MP David Mor­ris leapt to his feet and re­peat­edly de­manded “Pub­lish it!” and Brex­i­teer Mark Fran­cois called Mr Ber­cow’s de­fence “ut­ter sophistry”.

To Tory jeers, Mr Ber­cow in­sisted: “I’m try­ing to do the right thing and make the right judg­ments.

“That is what I have tried to do and what I will go on do­ing.”

The vote fol­lowed Tues­day’s Gov­ern­ment de­feat on a mo­tion to limit its pow­ers to change taxes if there was a no-deal Brexit. The row

erupted at the start of five days of Com­mons de­bate af­ter Mrs May pulled a vote on her plans last month.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s dra­matic move fol­lowed a warn­ing by whips that she was fac­ing cer­tain de­feat.

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