The Speaker’s ruling

I have been asked to comment on the Speaker’s ruling on Wednesday. I will do so when I have heard the Speaker’s further consideration, which he promised to Jacob Rees Mogg and Iain Duncan Smith who raised important questions at the time. At issue is the question of whether a Business motion tabled by government should be amendable, and what putting a motion forthwith means as this is often referred to in Standing Orders.

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42 Comments

  1. agrictola
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    Well if you don’t know the answer you can imagine how confusing we find it in the real world. Rules can be interpreted to the letter or by the intention behind them. Thats what police men used to do, make a considered judgement on the spot, minus the PC world looking over their shoulder. I think we were the better for it.

  2. Steve
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    I don’t fully understand the implications. None the less I never did like or trust Bercow.

    Does his ruling weaken our chances of leaving the EU without a deal, or not ? is all I need to know.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      It is interesting that everyone from the speaker to the Japanese PM are again telling the UK what to do, just as the world did at the time of the 2016 people’s vote.

      • Stred
        Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        The Japanese PM’s visit and support was on the list leaked and denied before Christmas. He was representing Japanese car manufacturers and the globalist lobby. It was his Obama moment. No mention of harpooning intelligent mammals on the news. It would have spoiled the plot.

  3. TomTomTom
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Saw your question to the SNP guy in Parliment today.

    Next time you have an opportunity to rebut them could you please remind them that if they had “won” their referendum Scotland would have been out the UK and simultaneously out of the EU.

    And ironically we’d still be so deep in negotiation with wee Scotland ( if you think its difficult to unpick 40 years of integration, try unpicking 300 ) that ironically the UK would never have had the EU vote.

    • Richard1
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      With the oil price at 1/2 the level it was in the Scottish referendum they would also be bust. By now the Scottish electorate would be moving radically to the right and searching for a Scottish Thatcher to sort out the mess.

      • Bob
        Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        “the Scottish electorate would be moving radically to the right”

        Moving to the south more likely.

  4. Mark B
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks, Sir John.

  5. matthu
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    I guess this time when The Speaker refers to his advisors he’ll get the response:
    “You’re on your own, mate!”

  6. Ronald Olden
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    This is all irrelevant anyway. The controversy obsesses MPs because they think the world revolves around them and they delude themselves into thinking that they are entitled to ‘govern the country’.

    They are emphatically not so entitled.

    The Executive governs the country. MPs are the to hold it to account and, should they consent to do so, to pass laws when asked. They have no powers ot to tell the Government what to do.

    We live under the Rule of Law in this country. The Government is obliged to apply the Rule of Law and is circumscribed by it. So these ‘motions’ and the ‘amendments’ to them, are irrelevant in law.

    To quote the Supreme Court in the Gina Miller case:-, ‘they are of ‘political significance’, but have no legal consequences whatsoever’.

    No number if motions can change the fact that the Crown in Parliament has legislated to Leave the EU on March 29th 2019 and, independently of that law itself, International Law also ensures we do so by virtue of Article 50.

    ‘Deal or No Deal’ the only way out, is to enact a new law empowering the Government to withdraw the Article 50 Notice, or a law empowering it to ask for the Departure Date to be postponed.

    Neither can be done in the time remaining without the Government promoting it. If the House of Commons was unwilling to contemplate leaving the EU with No Deal or in the alternative accept whatever Deal was on offer, they shouldn’t have voted to Invoke Article 50 or pass the Brexit Act.

    If any Tory MP fails to support the Government in any Confidence Vote they should be expelled from the party and delelected immediately.

  7. The Prangwizard
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Forthwith is defined as ‘immediately’ and ‘without delay’. I wonder how many will make excuses for Bercow and attempt to say there can be exceptions, etc., etc..

    • Excalibur
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

      Exactly right, Prangwizard. In business, for example, one might see a memo saying “these instructions are to be implemented forthwith”. It means straightaway, or as you rightly say, ‘ without delay’.

  8. Andy
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees Mogg lost.

    They should get over it.

    MPs backed the amendment by 51% to 49% – which, apparently, is an overwhelming margin.

    We should not worry what the losers think.

    Parliamentary soverignty is a wonderful thing.

    • Edward2
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      It is an odd situation that those now fighting to use Parliamentary sovereignty are determined to use it to give it away to the EU.

      • Alan Jutson
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        Edward2

        Exactly.

      • Steve
        Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        You know when you stand back and take a look at this, it becomes clear the ‘war’ in the HoC is between remainers and remainers.

        May – a remainer
        Bercow – a remainer
        Grieve – a remainer
        Soubry – a remainer
        Corbyn – doesn’t know what he is, bless him.

        It’s all remainers lobbing grenades at remainers.

        I don’t think they’ll be satisfied until they’ve wrecked the country and caused a far right backlash on the streets.

        Perhaps they should just be put in an amphitheater and made to scrap it out amongst themselves, full gladiatorial arsenal and all. I’d pay good money to watch.

        They should take heed; we don’t see them as fit for much else.

        Watch what happens at the next general election if there is any doubt, when the skunks will finally come to realise what people think of them.

        • Bob
          Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

          @Steve

          “I don’t think they’ll be satisfied until they’ve wrecked the country and caused a far right backlash on the streets.”

          You’ve been listening to Anna Soubry again, obviously.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      But most of those who voted were old Andy. So should it count?

    • Steve
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      “Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees Mogg lost.
      They should get over it.”

      Indeed they should. It’s called democracy, not much of it about these days though.

      “We should not worry what the losers think.”

      Being one yourself Andy……etc.

      Oh and if you wish to advise others on matters concerning sovereignty, please at least learn how to spell it.

    • Alan Joyce
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Dear Mr. Redwood,

      In reply to Andy…

      The losers of the Speaker’s Ruling will not be asking for a People’s Ruling to overturn it.

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes. We’ve always known MPs are out of kilter with the public over the EU and many other issues for that matter.

      • Bob
        Posted January 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        “MPs are out of kilter with the public over the EU and many other issues”

        A good example is the govt’s refusal to provide safe sanctuary to persecuted Christians like Asia Bibi whose life is in danger, as well as her family’s. Shameful.

    • matthu
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      My impression was simply that Jacob R-M was concerned for the consequential implications for the standard business of the House. If the government is unable to rely on being able to move urgent motions that ought to be passed “forthwith” without risking all variety of amendments moved by the opposition, then it means that every motion needs to be attended by every MP (just in case the opposition seeks to sneak in a perverse amendment) and furthermore they need to provide for additional time to get these motions through parliament.

      Don’t forget that the House of Lords will also be wanting to sneak in additional amendments if they see the opportunity…

    • libertarian
      Posted January 10, 2019 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      Andy

      What no comment on the economic collapse in both Germany and France? Why is that ? Ford closing German and Spanish factories? Merkel & Macron signing an agreement to unify the two countries as one whilst the citizens are revolting in the streets. Wow no wonder you want to remain part of that, its such a wonderful prospect

    • BR
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      1.2 million votes is an overwhelming margin.

      A vote that should never have happened, partly because they already voted on this Bill is another matter altogether.

      Any other convenient untruths you’d like to try squirming into?

  9. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    If it is now possible to amend standing orders I do not expect Parliament to ever again waive through an EU directive. However long we remain tied to the EU by either withdrawal agreements or membership.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Speaker Bercow’s wife has a sticker on her car which he drives to work.

    “Bollocks to Brexit.”

    So. Would the referee of the last FA cup final have got away with having an “I love Chelsea ” sticker on a car he drove to that match ?

    • Stred
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Is it right that an MP’s wife should have a parking space reserved for MPs? It was good to watch the biased verbose quisling squirm and refuse to answer, when every person in the world knew the truth.

  11. oldtimer
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    There is a useful article on this topic over at ConservativeHome, to be found here:
    https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2019/01/chris-white-the-day-the-speaker-set-fire-to-erskine-may.html

    It seems that the Speaker overruled the Clerk of the Commons on whom MPs rely for interpretations of Erskine May, parliament’s procedural bible and rule book. If so the implications are potentially momentous for the conduct of parliamentary business.

  12. Steve
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Seems our Mr Bercow has been a naughty boy then.

    I always thought he came across as egotistic and extremely arrogant. Was at the shops ten minutes ago and saw him on the front page of the papers – a right smug look on his face.

    Who brings him to account when he breaks the rules I wonder? Though instinct tells me he’s the type to hang himself by his own petard, that’s what the smug always end up doing.

    Then we’ll see him laughing from the other side of his face.

    • rose
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      We are in a right pickle with a PM and a Speaker going off the rails, neither of whom we seem able to get rid of, though both are extending their power.

  13. eleanor justice
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Never a truer word Edward2

  14. Richard
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s democracy working. Only loons or those intent on damaging the country could deny hurrying up the government after wasting 4 weeks since mid december is a good idea.

  15. Iain Moore
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Peter Bone pointed out that he was refused the opportunity to make an amendment, in addition Charlie Elphicke (I think) pointed out that Grieve’s amendment was defective , so odd that Bercow allowed Grieve’s amendment . Perhaps it’s all explained by Margaret Beckett’s appearance on the Today programme this morning, which was odd, for she has become pretty invisible of late, and it wasn’t of note for anything she said on the programme for that was really a case of ‘nothing to see here’, but of note regarding what she had said previously about Bercow during the bullying allegations he was facing, that they needed to keep this EU supporting Speaker in position over Brexit. A little revelation the Today programme didn’t see fit to inform listeners about.

    It was pretty clear from what Bercow said in the Commons yesterday that he was making it up as he goes along, and got shirty when embarrassed about his ruling. If Bercow is not going to respect the House of Commons rules and precedent, the he is less of a Speaker and more of a despot.

  16. Adam
    Posted January 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    John Bercow is low calibre & unsuited to being Speaker; perhaps worse even than his predecessor. He should be diverted to a different career path, yet it is not evident that he would be of any value or useful. Some suggestions might attract him away from endangering parliament.

  17. Baz Lloyd
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 5:24 am | Permalink

    Bercow’s ruling was arrived at by him, manipulating the language which states that no ‘debate’ is allowed on an amendment and replacing it with a ruling that says a VOTE on the amendment is permitted, without the amendment being ‘debated’.

    Leaving aside the fact that that this vote has no effect in law anyway it’s not legally possible for a public body in the UK to make decisions without some formal consideration process.

    The Government and public bodies routinely lose Judicial Reviews not on account of the decision itself, but for the very reason that they can’t show evidence that they’ve given proper consideration to some feature of the question in hand.

    It is not possible to arrive at a decision on a motion put before the House unless the House debates it, or at least formally votes on guillotining the debate.

    If this ruling is put to Judicial Review Bercow should lose.

    • DennisA
      Posted January 11, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      “Bercow’s ruling was arrived at by him,”

      Or fed to him by the macchiavellian Grieve.

  18. Posted January 11, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    The real problem presented by The Speaker’s decision is that any (ANY) future motions presented to Parliament “forthwith” cannot be guaranteed to be unamendable. By his recent ruling The Speaker has set a precedent which may bind future Speakers.

    The best solution for the Government is to present motions they don’t want amended in the normal way with the use of the word “forthwith”. If The Speaker chooses to allow amendments to such a motion then the Government should withdraw it forthwith.

    The Speaker made a second error in the recent case by allowing his clerks to advise other MPs that the motion was unamendable. Thus Peter Bone was advised not to submit an amendment. It was further evidence of apparent bias by The Speaker.

    I have tried in the previous two paragraphs not to make my criticism personal to John Bercow, but he deserves personal criticism. He lacks the integrity of most of his immediate predecessors. Bullying his staff, calling The Leader of the House “a stupid woman”, allowing himself to be associated with anti-Brexit slogans, not to mention his lengthy, public lectures to MPs he wishes to admonish…. The list goes on. Still, I am sure that his mirror loves him!

  19. ferdinand
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Is Erskine May now redundant ?

  20. BR
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    My understanding is slightly different than the article. I understood that the issue is that the business motion is not amendable via a motion stating that it could not be amended, but Bercow allowed it on the basis that Grieve was amending that amendment!

    The key point here is that the Bill in question had already been passed with an approved motion as an amendment that it could have no further motions to amend the Bill.

    Bercow allowed Grieve’s amendment on the ridiculous basis that it was an amendment to that motion, not an amendment to the Bill itself. That is clearly nonsense, since once it has been voted for, the motion becomes part of the Bill.

    I look forward to the full article on this subject.

  21. MickN
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    In earlier times heads would have been on spikes by now. Let us hope that we do not have to seen a return to these days of old. Those voting to destroy democracy should be very careful about what they want to replace it with.

  22. Tabulazero
    Posted January 11, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s because of the uncertainties brought by Brexit, your lordship. I am not even going to ask if you have a shred of remorse.

    4,500 jobs gone. The turkeys did genuinely vote for Christmas.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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