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Speaker’s Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 21st October 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 3:31 pm, 21st October 2019

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman, whose experience in these matters and whose prowess as a lawyer I readily acknowledge. I hope that he will not take it amiss—but if he does, it is a regrettable inevitability—when I say that he has put on record his understanding of the legal position, and he has said it, as he has on previous occasions, with crystal clarity. Other people have a different view about the legal position and the significance of the so-called Benn Act. If memory serves me correctly, I did not dwell in my statement on adherence to the law. I touched on that matter only in response to the point of order from Mr Bone. I totally understand what the hon. Member for Stone thinks and why.

Moreover, I made clear in the statement the option open to the Government, and I reiterated it in response to the hon. Member for Wellingborough. The amendment in the name of Sir Oliver Letwin, I remind not just Members, but those attending our proceedings, explicitly specified that the legislation should come first. Suddenly to have at the next sitting day a debate on the same matter upon which an explicit conclusion was reached on Saturday would seem very unusual, and I have made the judgment that I have made.

Colleagues, I am stating the obvious, but when you make a judgment on these matters, manifestly, some people, if it is controversial, are pleased and other people are displeased. That is in the nature of the responsibility. I have simply sought to discharge my obligations and to do what I believe to be right, and that is what the Speaker has to do.