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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—and I mean this very sincerely—for his point of order and, in particular, in the best traditions of his service, for his explicit, direct challenge. I respect that. No whispering behind his hands or muttering into his soup, or anything like that—he is challenging me directly. I do not agree with him. I think the consistent thread is that I try to do what is right by the House of Commons, including by, in many cases, minorities whose voices need to be heard. What I said when I allowed the amendment tabled by Mr Grieve on, if memory serves me correctly, 9 January this year, was that the will of the House should be tested. It may well be that it had not been the norm for such motions to be amended, but I felt that the circumstances were different. Very specifically, I sensed that there was a very strong appetite for that amendment among several parties in the House, and a resistance to it by a very much smaller number of parties, and I thought that the will of the House should be tested.

It is true that we are guided not only by precedent, but I would say to David T. C. Davies that just because we are not guided only by precedent does not mean that we are not guided at all by precedent. What one has to do is make a balanced judgment about what best serves the interests of the House. All I would say to him is that as recently as Saturday, at the insistence of the Government—and I think with the support of the House—the House met to deliberate on this very matter. Simply to allow the matter to be reconsidered two days later, on the very next sitting day, seems to me to be entirely unreasonable. Nothing that I have said by way of conclusion today flies in the face of contrary expert advice that I have received. I have consulted, I have taken advice, I have listened to people expert in these matters, and I have not been counselled that what I have said today is wrong. I have not been counselled that what I have said today is wrong, and I have a very strong sense that there is a pretty wide acceptance that on this matter my judgment, however inconvenient and irksome to some people, has the advantage of being procedurally right.