His abuse of the rules flagrantly defied the will of the people: ANDREA LEADSOM on Commons Speaker John Bercow ‘failing’ the Government
- Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom in war of words with John Bercow
- She blames the Speaker of ‘handing over power to the Opposition’
- Mrs Leadsom has called on someone ‘impartial’ to take over the Speaker role
People who choose to go into politics do so to make the world a better place – I know that was certainly my aspiration.
That might sound naive – and after the last week, it might sound implausible – but it’s the truth.
And in my role as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, I feel I have the opportunity to do that – to cut our carbon emissions; to make the most of the fourth industrial revolution; to make our working environment better, and to use science to cure disease, to extend life and to improve communities.
Destroyed: The Government’s negotiating hand in Brussels has been hampered as the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
These are all real goals that have real impacts on real people.
And, of course, I have another important goal too – to see us leave the EU, fulfil the will of the British people, and become a truly free, international-facing nation.
Last week was one of those weeks in politics where late nights met frustration and disappointment. In just a few short days, Jeremy Corbyn and a select group of MPs demonstrated their refusal to respect democracy and act on the will of the people.
A will that our Prime Minister has fought all summer to deliver.
As the former Leader of the Commons, I spent two years watching Parliament chip away at our negotiating hand. It was a role that gave me a unique and privileged insight into the mechanics of our political system – which is intricate, but has been forged over the centuries.
In the absence of a single written constitution, we follow a mix of precedent, convention and law. But that unwritten constitution still has rules, and it has people at its heart.
The people exercise their will through Parliament – a group of MPs, selected by them, to represent them and govern them. In return for power, MPs agree to respect the voice of the people. But last week, the House failed to do so.
By voting to extend Article 50 in the absence of a deal, the Opposition have destroyed the Government’s negotiating hand in Brussels – giving little incentive for the EU to give us the good deal we continue to fight for, and taking away the Prime Minister’s room to fight for the UK’s interests.
But, even more than this, they have changed the UK constitution.
There are people in Parliament whose roles are to understand the British constitution, and to protect it. One of those is the Leader of the Commons, working in the ‘engine room’ of the legislative machine. Another is the Speaker.
The Speaker is the senior officer of the House of Commons, and its highest authority. A politically impartial, independent umpire of proceedings, the Speaker is in place to protect the constitution and oversee the behaviour of the House.
As an MP, a Minister and a former Leader of the Commons, I fully respect and appreciate the role of the Speaker. But last week, the current Speaker failed us.
Under fire: Speaker John Bercow was criticised by Mrs Leadsom of ‘giving power to the Opposition’
In allowing MPs to use Standing Order No 24 – an important procedure whereby MPs can debate urgent issues – as a route to taking over the Parliamentary timetable and giving power to the Opposition, the Speaker hasn’t just bent the rules, he has broken them.
So it is right that the Conservatives will recognise this fact at the next General Election by standing our candidate against him in Buckingham
Parliamentary procedure is centuries old. The process of having a first, second and third reading is a tool to protect the public.
The time-consuming procedure ensures that each piece of legislation – which changes the laws of the country and in turn, people’s lives – is done in a very considered way, avoiding mistakes and maintaining the integrity of the Commons.
What we saw on Tuesday was a flagrant abuse of this process.
The Standing Order No 24 that the Opposition proposed wasn’t appropriate for a Motion.
It was intended to ram through legislation for purely political motives.
The use of Standing Order No 24 in this way will lead to the creation of bad laws.
It ignores the Government’s right to govern, abuses emergency debates and in this case has put EU negotiations into the hands of the Opposition.
It acts in complete disregard to the will of the people – not just on Brexit, but on whom they have chosen to govern them.
It adds insult to injury that in doing so, Labour have afforded themselves power without accountability – claiming to represent the people without asking their permission.
This is a route to the diminution of our democracy, which is why the Prime Minister is now calling for a General Election.
Bring it on, I say, and bring back an impartial Speaker.
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