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

With the very greatest respect to the hon. Gentleman, I think that I have demonstrated, over a period of nine and a half years and more, that I am not a stickler for tradition. I do not believe in doing everything the same way forever more just because people say to me, as so many have, “Oh, Mr Speaker, it’s always been done that way, or, “Oh, we’ve never previously had X.” I have been ready to countenance change. I remember once being told many years ago by a retired and senior Clerk of this House that she was very pleased that I had secured support for the establishment of a nursery in the House that Members and staff could pay for. She said to me that she did not know whether I was aware that throughout her four decades’ service in the House, the idea of establishing such a facility had periodically been discussed but unfortunately nothing had ever happened, which was not helpful to her in terms of work/life balance—her professional commitments and her childcare responsibilities. So I think I can say, with the very greatest respect, that I have attempted to be a progressive change-maker. As for the particulars concerned, it has to depend on the circumstances. I would have to look at the specifics. It would be reckless and foolhardy to pronounce in the abstract.

I would say further to the hon. Gentleman, just to remind him of the context of my statement, that, as regards the use of time, we have been addressing this matter for a period spanning four months. In so far as time has been lost during that period—for example, at one point, a loss of five weeks without the matter coming to the House—that was not a result of fiat by the Chair or folly by the House; it was the express decision of the Government. I cannot, off the top of my head, remember for certain whether the hon. Gentleman supported the Government’s position on that matter. I have a very high regard for his ability, because he is an extremely able man. I hope he will not take offence if I say, in the nicest possible way, that he has always seemed to me to be a keen supporter of close regulatory alignment with the Government Whips Office.