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MP storms out in spat with Speaker

An MP has stormed out of the Commons after arguing with Speaker John Bercow.

Liberal Democrat Greg Mulholland was told "don't argue the toss" and "don't shake your head, mate" by Mr Bercow after he was judged to have taken too long to ask a question.

The Speaker had advised the MP for Leeds North West to keep his query to health ministers brief due to the large demand from his fellow parliamentarians wanting to pose their own questions.

But Mr Mulholland was cut off and ordered to sit down while attempting to press ministers about delays in decisions over drug funding.

The pair then quarrelled, with Mr Mulholland pointing at the Speaker and telling him the issue was "important" before continuing to shout as he walked out of the chamber.

Mr Bercow told the Leeds North West MP to "learn it man" before later adding it was not fair for MPs to adopt the attitude that " my question is important and therefore I can be much longer".

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Mulholland said: "On June 22 (Life Sciences Minister George Freeman) said in a written answer that the decision on the interim funding of Vimizim will be made by NHS England at the end of June 2015.

"Families, and also families affected by duchenne muscular dystrophy and tuberous sclerosis, were then told there will be a decision on June 30 and July 1."

As MPs voiced their concerns about the length of the question, Mr Bercow intervened to tell Mr Mulholland: "Order, order, you will resume your seat. It's a discourtesy to the House to be long-winded, especially when exhorted not to be.

"Order, don't argue the toss with the chair Mr Mulholland. Don't shake your head, mate. I'm telling you what the position is, you were too long. Leave, that's fine, we can manage without you."

Mr Mulholland pointed at Mr Bercow and could be heard telling him the issue he was raising was "important".

He collected his belongings near his seat and continued to point at Mr Bercow - saying "It's important", among other remarks - as he left the chamber.

The Speaker added: "Mr Mulholland, learn it man, you were too long and you need to learn - and that's the end of it."

At the end of health question-time, Mr Bercow told MPs demand always exceeds supply "rather as in the health service".

As MPs laughed, he added: "Under any government.

"For the avoidance of doubt, I hope colleagues will understand that I appreciate, I've been on those benches, all honourable members' questions are important - o f course members feel very strongly about them.

"I'm sympathetic to that. I respect that.

"But people can't simply take the attitude 'my question is important and therefore I can be much longer' because that's not fair on other members.

"I'm simply trying to be fair to all members."

Speaking outside the Commons, Mr Mulholland said he believed there had been a "failure of parliamentary democracy, not a failure on my part".

He said he applied for an urgent question after a decision on the drugs funding had not been reached by last week's deadline, which he labelled a " disgraceful U-turn and non-decision by NHS England".

Mr Mulholland said after the application was turned down he hoped the Speaker would allow him a little more time to explain the issue, which he said could not be done with a "glib sentence" given the serious medical conditions involved.

He said: "It's incredibly disappointing. I thought it was extraordinary really."

Mr Mulholland went on: "The urgent question was turned down and I thought I'd get the chance to ask a topical question. I thought the subject matter, because of the urgent request, I'm sure (Mr Bercow) will respect it takes a little bit longer to mention it rather than a glib sentence.

"It didn't make any sense. It's all very well having brevity but that dumbs things down. I will publish my question and let other people decide if it was far too long.

"It's very disappointing that the opportunity at health questions after the non-decision last week has now disappeared.

"Ministers have not been held to account despite them clearly saying we'd get a decision last week. I think today was a failure of parliamentary democracy, not a failure on my part."

Asked what the families of those affected by the funding decision delay would make of the events in the Commons, Mr Mulholland said: "I can only imagine they feel already incredibly let down by NHS England and by health ministers. Today they will feel let down by the House of Commons."

He said he would publish his question and seek other ways to raise the issue, adding: "I will not be silenced, I think he (Mr Bercow) knows that. I think everyone knows that."


From Belfast Telegraph