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UK Politics

Email savages John Bercow’s candidate for Clerk of Commons

Speaker has decided to push for the appointment of Australian to become most powerful unelected official

Commons Speaker John Bercow faces a rebellion among Tory MPs over his decision to push for the appointment of an Australian woman to become the most powerful unelected official in the Commons.

On Sunday Mr Bercow’s critics leaked an email from Rosemary Laing, Clerk of  the Australian Senate, who claimed that Carol Mills was unfit to take up the £200,000-a-year post as the Commons Clerk in Westminster.

The email says Ms Mills, who is currently head of the Department of Parliamentary Services in the Australian Senate, “was without parliamentary knowledge and experience”.

In Canberra she is responsible for all aspects of running the behind-the-scenes operations of the Senate – but not for parliamentary procedure, which is a key part of the Commons Clerk’s role.

Mr Bercow hopes Ms Mills will help modernise how the Commons is run but is facing strong opposition from traditionalists and MPs in his own party who have long accused him of bias towards Labour.

Ms Laing wrote in her email, which was passed to the Mail on Sunday: “We were utterly taken aback when we heard Carol Mills was front-runner to replace Sir Robert Rogers [as Commons Clerk] and have followed events with disbelief and dismay.

“It seems impossible someone without parliamentary knowledge and experience could be under consideration for such a role. It is bizarre  and an affront. Carol comes from the state public service. It is not simple to move to serving Parliament if there is a lack of understanding  of Parliament.”

Ms Laing’s comments echo those of Tory MPs who claim Mr Bercow would ride roughshod over Ms Mills, who would be expected to provide advice to the Speaker on Parliamentary rules and procedure.

The MPs accuse the Speaker of political correctness by overlooking the qualifications of Sir Robert’s deputy, a  man. It is understood that Ms Mills is the preferred candidate of the six-strong Commons interview panel, including Mr Bercow. However, David Cameron has to recommend the appointment to the Queen and this has not yet happened.