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John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, has voiced his disapproval of any invitation to Donald Trump to speak to a gathering of both Houses of Parliament.

He justifies his view citing Parliament's deep objections to misogyny, racism, and religious discrimination, and its support for the principle of an independent judiciary.

Will Speaker Bercow, as a single keyholder of three to the Palace of Westminster be able to prevail against the Prime Minister and will any address by President Trump have to be moved to less honoured surroundings?

  • Also, while I don't know this for sure, I suspect this is a scenario that is very similar to the queen where technically there is still power in this position, but if the office holder actually tries to use this power it will be immediately stripped by parliament. – David Grinberg Feb 6 '17 at 21:28
  • I removed the "subsidiary question" because it was 1. incomplete and 2. it's generally not a good idea to ask two questions at once. – Philipp Feb 6 '17 at 21:28
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    @phoog Parliament can do anything it likes. It is sometimes said, by way of emphasis that "it can make women men, and men women, if it wants". The only thing it can't do is to pass legislation which binds successor parliament in any way. – WS2 Feb 6 '17 at 22:32
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    @fixer1234: Yes. In case you missed it, the assembly is of British MPs, not HM's government or Donald Trump. The MP's alone have the freedom to decide who they want in their assembly. Mr Trump is free to assemble elsewhere. – MSalters Feb 6 '17 at 22:33
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    @fixer1234 I do accept the point that freedom of assembly is a different thing altogether. My point is that HM Government cannot force Parliament to do anything it is not minded to do. – WS2 Feb 6 '17 at 22:36
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The question refers to the Speaker of the House as Commons as "a single keyholder of three to the Palace of Westminster" - but this is not quite right.

The three keyholders referred to here are the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Lord Speaker (representing the House of Lords), and the Lord Chamberlain (representing the Queen). However, they only have joint control of Westminster Hall and the Crypt Chapel (sources: 1, 2).

Of these two particular parts of the Palace of Westminster, only Westminster Hall is used for addresses to both Houses. So, the Speaker can indeed prevent anyone from addressing both Houses in this space.

However, the Royal Gallery has also been used on a number of occasions for this purpose - and this is under the control of the Lord Chamberlain alone. But although the Speaker cannot prevent an address to both Houses happening here, it seems unlikely that that would happen without his agreement. As he said in his statement:

Customarily an invitation to a visiting leader to deliver an address there would be issued in the names of the two Speakers. I would not wish to issue an invitation to President Trump to speak in the Royal Gallery.

Finally, as to the question of whether the Speaker will "be able to prevail against the Prime Minister": yes, because the Government has no power over the use of the Palace of Westminster.

  • It might be worth noting that whilst he could refuse, this could undermine the spirit of non-partisanship that the Speak position requires. This, combined with the embarrassment it could cause to the Government, would be enough to force a 'vote of no confidence' in the Speaker and lead to Bercow being removed. – BeaglesEnd Feb 9 '17 at 17:22
  • This is a very good answer. It has been announced on the news this evening that a Conservative member has put down a motion of "no confidence" in the Speaker. It will now be interesting to see what happens. If he survives a vote, it will presumably only be by a narrow margin. And how then does a Speaker, who has lost the confidence of a large section of the chamber continue to do his job? – WS2 Feb 9 '17 at 19:03
  • @BeaglesEnd: absolutely. Indeed, the fact that the Speaker made this statement at all is controversial precisely because many regard it as overtly political and partisan. In addition, decisions about addresses to both Houses are normally done in private, and with consensus between the various parties. To make a unilateral statement like this is highly unusual. – Steve Melnikoff Feb 10 '17 at 9:22
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    @WS2: thank you for your kind words. That is a good question. What I find interesting is that, as far as I can tell, a majority of MPs agree with his assessment of the President - but many (especially in the Conservative party) believe that he should have kept his opinion private. – Steve Melnikoff Feb 10 '17 at 9:25

protected by phoog Oct 14 at 19:17

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