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Bercow under fire after allowing MPs to vote on Brexit plan B proposal

The Speaker was criticised by several Tory MPs.

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Commons Speaker John Bercow (Yui Mok/PA)

Commons Speaker John Bercow (Yui Mok/PA)

Commons Speaker John Bercow (Yui Mok/PA)

John Bercow sparked furious Commons scenes as MPs argued over the potential process of how to bring forward a Brexit plan B.

The Commons Speaker faced a backlash from Conservative MPs after selecting a proposal from Tory former minister Dominic Grieve, which attempts to speed up the process for the Government to reveal what it will do next if Theresa May’s deal is rejected.

Mr Grieve’s amendment was tabled against a Government motion detailing the timetable for the Brexit deal debate, which Tory MPs argued was “unamendable”.

But Mr Bercow stood by his decision to allow a vote on the amendment – which was ultimately approved by 308 votes to 297, majority 11 – amid personal criticism and calls for him to go from Tory MPs during more than 60 minutes of points of order.

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Commons Speaker John Bercow (PA)

Commons Speaker John Bercow (PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Commons Speaker John Bercow (PA)

The Speaker also did not confirm that his decision was taken with agreement from the Commons clerk Sir David Natzler following questions by Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom.

Mr Grieve, supported by fellow Tory rebels, wants the Government to return with a revised EU exit plan within three sitting days if the Prime Minister’s deal is defeated next week.

MPs heard the original process outlined in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which requires a statement within 21 days, takes precedence.

Outlining his decision to select the amendment, Mr Bercow said: “My understanding is the motion is amendable, I’m clear in my mind about that.”

After heckles from the Tory benches, he added: “I’m trying to do the right thing and make the right judgments. That is what I have tried to do and what I will go on doing.”

Tory former minister Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), claimed Mr Bercow was not following his own rules.

He later yelled “ridiculous” and “that is utter sophistry”, but Mr Bercow defended his decision.

For many of us we will now have an unshakeable conviction that the referee of our affairs, not least because you gave your opinion and your vote on the issue of Brexit publicly, that we we will have an unshakeable conviction that the referee is no longer neutralTory MP Crispin Blunt

The Speaker later confirmed he consulted the clerk and officials, saying the advice was given to him “privately and that’s absolutely proper”.

He said: “It’s also true I had a written note from the clerk from which I quoted in responding to the first point of order.”

Tory MP David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) leapt to his feet and repeatedly shouted: “Publish it!”

Mr Bercow added there was not full written advice nor a brief.

Tory Brexiteers raised several concerns while Conservative former minister Crispin Blunt, raising a further point of order, called on Mr Bercow to “reflect” on his position.

He said: “You said you would serve nine years, there has been the controversy of the recommendations of the Dame Laura Cox inquiry into the House of Commons, you have been defended particularly by two members on the other side about the importance of you being sustained in this position beyond nine years in order to oversee the discussions of the Brexit issue.”

He added: “For many of us we will now have an unshakeable conviction that the referee of our affairs, not least because you gave your opinion and your vote on the issue of Brexit publicly, that we will have an unshakeable conviction that the referee is no longer neutral.

“I just invite you to reflect on the conclusion that many of us will have inevitably have come to.”

Tory MP Adam Holloway (Gravesham) later accused Mr Bercow of having a “derogatory” sticker about Brexit in his car.

He said: “We’ve all noticed in recent months a sticker in your car making derogatory comments about Brexit. Have you driven that car with the sticker on?”

Mr Bercow said that was a “factual error” and told MPs the car belonged to his wife.

He said: “That sticker on the subject of Brexit happens to be affixed to or in the windscreen of my wife’s car, and I’m sure he wouldn’t suggest for one moment that a wife is somehow the property or chattel of her husband. She is entitled to her views, that sticker is not mine and that’s the end of it.”

Mr Bercow’s comment drew huge cheers and applause from Labour and SNP MPs.

Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke earlier said he found it “unbelievable” that some MPs were trying to stop the Commons expressing its opinion on the matter.

He said: “I would suggest to some of my honourable friends, the ones that are getting somewhat overexcited, that perhaps they should don a yellow jacket and go outside.”

PA