LONDON — House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has announced that he intends to block US President Donald Trump from addressing Parliament when Trump visits the UK later this year.
It is customary for visiting presidents to address MPs and members of the House of Lords in Westminster Hall when making state visits to Britain.
As speaker of the House of Commons, however, Bercow is one of three people who has the authority to block visiting figures from doing this.
The speaker said on Monday afternoon that addressing Parliament was an “earned honour” and not an invitation that came automatically with a state visit.
“What I will say is this. An address by a foreign leader to both Houses of Parliament is not an automatic right. It is an earned honour. Moreover, there are many precedents for state visits to take place to our country which do not include an address to both Houses of Parliament. That’s the first point.
“In relation to Westminster Hall, there are three key holders to Westminster Hall: the speaker of the House of Commons, the speaker of the House of Lords and the lord great chamberlain. Ordinarily we are able to work by consensus and the hall would be used for a purpose such as an address or another purpose by agreement of the three key holders.
“I must say to the honourable gentleman, to all who signed his early day motion and to others with strong views about this matter on either side of the argument, that before the imposition of the migrant ban I would myself have been strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall. After the imposition of the migrant ban by President Trump I am even more strongly opposed to an address by President Trump in Westminster Hall.
“And I concluded by saying to the honourable gentleman this. We value our relationship with the United States. If a state visit takes place, that is way beyond and above the pay grade of the speaker.
“However, as far as this place [the House of Commons] is concerned, I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons.”
Watch Bercow’s speech on Trump:
Bercow’s speech was met with a round of applause from MPs in the Commons, which in usual circumstances is banned practice. Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner stood up to say “well done” to the House speaker.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted shortly after the speech: “Well said John Bercow. We must stand up for our country’s values. Trump’s State Visit should not go ahead.”
Corbyn’s Labour colleague Harriet Harman tweeted saying it was a “proud moment” for the House of Commons. In a statement, Liberal Democrat party leader leader Tim Farron said: “Trump should be under no illusion. We are snubbing him.”
Farron’s full statement reads:
“This is the right decision by The Speaker. The Prime Minister might wish to kowtow to the nasty misogynist that now sits in the Oval Office but no-one else does. We do not want him to speak to us. He is not welcome.
“Speaking within Parliament is a rare honour, the highest honour we can offer. In the past we have hosted speeches from leaders in equality, justice and human rights from Mandela to Obama to Aung San Suu Kyi. Trump is not fit to shine their shoes.
“The government’s obsession to get a Brexit trade deal, any deal, means we have ended up in this situation. It has been a grubby little saga from beginning to end.
“Trump should be under no illusion. We are snubbing him.”
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage tweeted that Bercow ought to take a “neutral” stance on whether the US president should address parliamentarians. Farage, who has formed a friendship with Trump in recent months, said: “For Speaker Bercow to uphold our finest parliamentary traditions, he should be neutral.”
The US president has been in the White House less than three weeks but has provoked outrage worldwide. The businessman turned politician announced last month that people from seven majority-Muslim countries would be barred from entering the US for 90 days as the federal government reviews its vetting procedures. The move led to protests both in the US and abroad, including in Britain.
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Speaker Bercow just cancelled Trump visit to parliament. A proud moment for Commons. Racism and sexism not welcome here.
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) February 6, 2017
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