Speaker of the Lords gently rebuffs John Bercow over Donald Trump state visit saying he will keep 'open mind'

'But allow me to say I’ve spent the last 30 years campaigning against prejudice and discrimination, particularly for the rights of LGBT people and those with HIV' said Lord Fowler

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 07 February 2017 15:56 GMT
Lords speaker says he has an open mind to a Donald Trump speech in Parliament

The Speaker of the Lords has gently rebuffed John Bercow over his refusal to invite Donald Trump to speak in Westminster, saying he would keep an “open mind” about any request made.

It follows an unprecedented intervention by Mr Bercow, the Commons Speaker, who said he was “strongly opposed” to the President addressing Parliament as he stressed being invited was “not an automatic right” but an “earned honour”.

Speaking in the Lords, Lord Fowler said: “My view is that I will keep an open mind and consider any request for Mr Trump to address Parliament if and when it is made. I do not intend to argue a case for or against Mr Trump’s visit – that is not my role as Speaker.

“But allow me to say I’ve spent the last 30 years campaigning against prejudice and discrimination, particularly for the rights of LGBT people and those with HIV/AIDS.

“There will be other leaders coming to this country who may also be controversial,” he added. “The procedure as it stands means that either Mr Speaker or myself can effectively veto any proposal for a visiting to address Parliament at least as far Westminster Hall is concerned.

Lord Fowler said that when Speakers receive a request to invite a head of state to address Parliament they “both have to agree to issue an invitation after consultation”.

“The whole purpose is to seek consensus ensuring that both Houses have the opportunity to consider a request. Yesterday in the Commons Mr Bercow said he was opposed to the President speaking. I should make it clear that I was not consulted on that decision or its timing,” he said.

Lord Fowler added, however, that Mr Bercow had contacted him earlier on Tuesday. “He told me that while he maintained his view on the issue he was generally sorry for failing to consult with me. Obviously I accepted that apology.”

Speaking in the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Bercow said he strongly opposed an address from the American President before the imposition of the widely-condemned executive order banning migrants from Muslim-majority countries.

“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,” Mr Bercow added.

He admitted that he would “perhaps have a strong a say in that matter” but said that “customarily an invitation to a visiting leader to deliver an address there would be issued in the names of the two speakers”.

Speaker John Bercow says he would oppose a speech to the House of Commons by Donald Trump

The Commons Speaker has since faced calls to consider his position after he appeared to brand the US president as "racist" and “sexist” during a point of order. When asked about Mr Bercow’s comments on Tuesday the Prime Minister’s spokesman added: "What John Bercow suggests to Parliament is a matter for Parliament.

"What I will set out is our position which is we've extended this invitation to the president and we look forward to receiving him later this year."

Asked if Ms May had “full confidence” in the Speaker, the spokesman added: “The Speaker is an issue for Parliament”.

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