Speaker’S Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 18th March 2019.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 3:33 pm, 18th March 2019

What I have to say to the right hon. Lady is threefold. First, there was already present in the Chamber—before the arrival of the Leader of the House whom we welcome to our proceedings—the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions who, by any standard, must be considered to be senior. I will not get into a vulgar argument about the respective levels of seniority of different hon. and right hon. Members, and there are, of course, different forms of seniority, but the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was already present and the Leader of the House has now joined us.

I say to Anna Soubry that it is not for me to say what the Government should do, but it would be helpful to the House to have the earliest possible indication of how the Government intend to proceed in this important matter. Of course, we may learn more about the Government’s intentions as a result of the upcoming urgent question that I have granted to Justine Greening, who applied to me for that question this morning. I have every expectation that the right hon. Member for Broxtowe and many others will be in their places for that, so we will learn more anon.

Colleagues’ disposition—in other words, what they choose to do and how they wish to proceed—is a matter for them. The role of the Speaker is to seek to facilitate the House and, if I may say so—and I will—to have a particular regard for the concerns of Back-Bench Members, who should be heard in this place. Part of the responsibility of the Speaker is, frankly, to speak truth to power. I have always done that and, no matter what, I always will, because I think that is the proper thing to do. Others can proceed as they wish, but I have never been pushed around and I am not going to start now.