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Bercow sparks Commons uproar after aiming ‘insult’ at Tory MP

Shouts of “withdraw” and “say sorry” thundered through the chamber.

Speaker John Bercow (House of Commons/PA)
Speaker John Bercow (House of Commons/PA)

John Bercow sparked uproar in the House of Commons by aiming an “insult” at a Conservative MP.

The Commons Speaker remarked that former minister Greg Hands “wasn’t a very good whip” as he admonished the MP for Chelsea and Fulham for “disorderly” behaviour.

But shouts of “withdraw” and “say sorry” thundered through the chamber from the Government backbenches and Mr Bercow was later forced to apologise.

The angry exchanges came shortly after the Government suffered a further humiliating Brexit defeat.

As Conservative David Davies (Monmouth) raised a point of order to seek clarity from Mr Bercow about the consequences of the result, Mr Hands attempted to interrupt the Speaker.

Mr Bercow replied: “I don’t require any help from the right honourable gentleman the member for Chelsea and Fulham. I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea where to start.

“He was once a whip, he wasn’t a very good whip. It’d be better if he kept quiet.”

This prompted shouting in the chamber and Mr Bercow denied his comment was “outrageous”.

If I have caused offence I very happily apologise. I have no difficulty with that

Sir Patrick McLoughlin, a Conservative former minister, later said: “A few weeks ago you sent out a message and a letter to all Members of Parliament asking them to treat each other with respect.

“Do you think your comments to (Mr Hands) reflected that?”

Mr Bercow replied: “If I have caused offence I very happily apologise. I have no difficulty with that.”

Sir Hugo Swire, another Tory former minister, said: “It may not cause you any great trouble but it causes us a certain degree of trouble.

“You, sir, have just congratulated (Tory former minister Sir Oliver Letwin) for treating everybody with courtesy, and you, sir, are the invigilator of this place – and if you insult other Members of Parliament, we have no comeback.”

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Greg Hands (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Bercow told Sir Hugo to resume his seat before noting: “(Mr Hands) was disorderly, the point was raised by (Sir Patrick), I have given an apology, I said sorry to (Mr Hands), nothing further requires to be added.”

The Speaker later praised Mr Hands for his work as a minister following support from Independent Group MP Anna Soubry.

Mr Bercow said: “He was an exceptionally capable minister, I don’t doubt that.

“I can’t comment on how good a whip he was beyond apologising for the offence I might have caused.

“He certainly was at the despatch box an immensely capable minister, I don’t dispute that for one moment.”

PA

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