Speaker John Bercow criticised over Donald Trump comments
Commons Speaker John Bercow has been criticised for voicing his opposition to US President Donald Trump addressing Parliament during a state visit.
Senior Tories told the BBC his comments had caused a lot of anger, with one saying it was “utterly outrageous” and others saying he should be impartial.
Mr Bercow said he would be “strongly opposed” to the president addressing MPs and peers when he visits the UK.
US Congressman Joe Wilson said it was a “slap” to Mr Trump’s Republican Party.
Last month, Prime Minister Theresa May said President Trump had accepted an invitation from the Queen for a state visit to the UK later this year.
‘Lots of anger’
However, responding to a point of order in the Commons on Monday, Mr Bercow said he was opposed to the president addressing both Houses of Parliament – as other international leaders have done.
He said addressing Parliament was “not an automatic right”, but an “earned honour” for foreign leaders.
“I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” he told MPs.
His comments were applauded by opposition MPs in the Commons.
However, senior Conservatives have rounded on the speaker’s comments.
One Tory MP and former Cabinet member told the BBC that Mr Bercow must be close to standing down, while another said his comments went “way beyond what is acceptable”.
Another said it was an embarrassment to the Commons and had caused a lot of anger.
Crispin Blunt, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said Mr Bercow was going to have to deal with “the consequences” of his comments.
Mr Blunt said there were “strongly held views on both sides of the argument”, but added: “Generally the speaker, who’s meant to referee all of this, should keep himself above that.
“I think that’s to be regretted. But it is a symptom of the controversy around this visit.”
The Lords’ Speaker, Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, will make his own statement on the issue to peers later.
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson criticised the Speaker’s comments, telling the BBC’s Newsnight programme his interjection was “very disappointing”.
“If ever in recent years there’s been a more pro-British president of the United States, it’s Donald Trump,” he said.
He said President Trump had already assured Mrs May over his commitment to Nato, expressed a desire to create UK-US trade relationships, and returned a bust of Winston Churchill to the Oval Office.
“I consider it too, sadly, a slap at the Republican Party. It was the leaders of our party that actually placed the bust of Winston Churchill in the US Capitol Building and we urge all persons to come visit our Capitol Building,” he added.
Other leaders’ speeches
- International leaders are sometimes invited to address both Houses of Parliament when they visit the UK
- Recent examples include Colombian President Juan Manuel Santo last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2014
- Mr Trump’s predecessor, President Barack Obama, made a speech in Westminster Hall in 2011
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Mr Bercow had “abused his position” and that to have expressed his opinions in the way he did “devalues this great office”.
As Speaker, Mr Bercow is the highest authority of the House of Commons and despite having been elected as a Conservative MP, must remain politically impartial.
However, his intervention was welcomed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has called for the state visit to be postponed, while Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said President Trump was “not welcome”.
Meanwhile, a petition to withdraw the invitation to the US president – and another one backing the visit – will be debated by MPs later this month.
No date for President Trump’s visit has been announced.
Source: BBC – UK News