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tv   British House of Commons Speaker John Bercow on the Role of Parliament  CSPAN  May 28, 2019 4:51pm-6:34pm EDT

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missouri senator josh hawley, illinois congresswoman lauren underwood, and former deputy u.s. attorney. c-span2, book tv with books and authors who wrote about women and espionage during world war ii. on c-span3, american history tv without oral histories series jo codeews with nava talkers. >> next, remarks from british house of commons speaker john bercow on the role of british parliament. he spoke about how the brexit he worked ind how parliament and how to keep order during a polarizing time. this from the brookings institute runs one hour and 40 minutes. mr. bercow: order! [laughter] order!
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good morning, ladies and gentlemen. and i ams john allen, the president of the brookings institution, and it is my pleasure to welcome you all here today. those in the audience who are with us, but also those over webcast and over c-span as well. very happy to have c-span here. we welcome you for a conversation on the role of parliament in policy and politics at a crucial moment in one of the best friends of the united states and our closest ally, the united kingdom. ais past year, there's been series of extraordinary development in british politics, with the house of commons at the center of it all. of particular interest has been the long-running debate over the country's departure from the european union, in which there have been three defeats of the government's brexit deal and two extensions of the deadline. last week, the u.k. along with the rest of the e.u. held
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elections for the european parliament, and the country will soon have a new prime minister. a leadership contest is getting underway within the governing conservative party, following prime minister may's announcement she will step down from party leadership following president trump's state visit and the d-day commemorations next week. background, wes are particularly grateful and very honored to have with us today the 157th speaker of the house of commons, the right honorable john bercow. began hisrcow parliament three career in 1997 when he was elected member of parliament from buckingham as a conservative. he spoke as a spokesman for education and employment starting in 1999, and was appointed shadow secretary to the treasury in 2001. shadow minister for work and pensions in 2002, and then
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shadow secretary of state for international development in 2003. 2009, elected speaker in and has served in that role ever since. mr. speaker, we are delighted to have you at brookings with us this morning. as you may know, mr. speaker, brookings has undertaken a major study of the challenges and pressures faced by democracies today, and i think i can speak for this institution, in that your role as speaker of the has of comments, you are indeed a forceful voice in defense of liberal democracy in the world today. you have spoken powerfully about the rule of law, about respect for human rights, and the imperative of civility. on my own, i would civilly say that people in the city are to be listening to all that very closely. and he has done it all while keeping order in the house of commons. today's event is part of the brookings robert bosh foundation transatlantic initiative, a
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multiyear project of applied research and programming seeking to reinvigorate and more recently to preserve the transatlantic collaboration on global issues. pleas like this woodson not be possible without the partnership brookings has with the robert bosh foundation and we are deeply grateful for that continued support. in a few moments i will invite speaker bercow to the stage for his remarks, and after that thomas right, a brookings senior fellow and the director of the center for the u.s. and europe at brookings will moderate a conversation with the speaker and amanda sloat, our robert bosh senior fellow at the center for u.s. and europe. questions and answers will follow the discussion. a final reminder, we are very much on the record and streaming live. for those of you coming in over the internet, we are most grateful for your attendance. so with that, ladies and
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gentlemen, it is my great honor and pleasure to welcome to the bbti stages speaker bercow. i look forward to his remarks and the subsequent conversation thereafter. sir, please join us. [applause] president allen! it has a certain ring to it. by observingbegin my friends, ladies and gentlemen, that having heard myself introduced, i can hardly wait to hear myself speak! [laughter] whether you will feel the same way at the end of my remarks is a matter of legitimate speculation and conjecture. but in the interests of inclusiveness, of intelligibility, of ensuring that everyone here present can genuinely attend to and feel a part of the proceedings, perhaps
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i can begin by inquiring whether you can hear me at the back. well, there are expressions of assent, and even some modest arm-waving by one gentleman wearing a splendidly picturesque tie, upon which i congratulate him. i take that as a modest encouragement that he is content to be able to attend and to hear. and that response, if i may say so to my inquiry, can you hear me in the back, represents a market improvement on the last occasion when i raised that selfsame question to an audience, can you hear me at the back, in which some unhelpful but i will "yes, happily change places with someone who can't!" [laughter] so, maybe i should quit while
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i'm ahead. encouraging to know both that you can hear me and you don't appear to be altogether distraught about the fact that you can do so. not because iay, want this to be a mutual admiration society, but because i believe in candor and straightforwardness, respond to for mehn, by saying that it is an honor and a privilege, as i said on the doorstep of the institution. never would i have imagined the day would come that i would be invited to address the brookings institution. i just had breakfast with the british ambassador, and your ears would have been burning, those who lead and those who have scholarly positions at the brookings institution, if you heard what he had to say.
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he said the brookings institution is a stellar performer, hugely revered and esteemed, for the sheer quality as well as prodigious quantity of its output. amount -- the amount to do, the focus on genuine research, on scholarship, on interaction, on interplay of ideas and on ensuring there is at least the prospect of evidence-based policy is something that should all.mmended to one and institutionsmany with the cerebral representation brookings has, and that needs to be respected and recognized by anyone invited to be amongst your number, even for a short period. that is a considerable honor. as far as amanda is concerned, i
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use that helpful qualifying term "unduly" because it's my get-out clause to embarrass amanda, but i will say to you, i have friends across the political spectrum, as you would expect, in the united kingdom. i did some work with and for ed balls when he was secretary of state for children and families in the brown government. ed and i have been friends for over a decade. i have the highest regard for ed, and i spoke to him and mentioned my interest in coming to the united states, and the possibility of having an academic gathering. and he commanded amanda to me, noterms of brooking misunderstanding. set how much he liked her, they cooperated on a number of fronts, but very specifically said to me, john, the thing you have to understand about amanda sloat, apart from her great
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knowledge of the european issue, is that she has a brain the size of a planet. [laughter] bank that,he will it's never and she will deploy that to her advantage in times hence. now, before i address some serious matters to the best of my ability within the timeframe available to me, i want to address one quite sensitive matter, which i hazard to guess your natural courtesy will probably disinclined you to raise with me directly. perhaps from my vantage point, ladies and gentlemen, perilously. the sensitive matter of height. [laughter] it has beencally, bruted, i rather like that old-fashioned word, in some of
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the more down market parts of the media, that i am the shortest man to ever be speaker of the u.k. house of commons. let me say to you, let me assert with all the conviction and rhetorical force at my command for the avoidance of doubt, there is nothing wrong with being short. on the law of averages, the likelihood is, and this description i don't know if it applies that most of you are seated, but a significant number of you in this audience share that characteristic of vertical challenge with me. we may be short, but we may also perfectlyelves to be formed. in any case, we are environmentally friendly in that we don't take up a great deal of space. [laughter] of makingi am by way a virtue of necessity, my friends, i am short, i have always been short, i'm 56 years
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old and therefore i'm set to remain short, and indeed given the impact of the aging process on physiognomy, the overwhelming process is that i will be even shorter. i'm intensely relaxed as the in thei of new labour u.k. once infamously observed. relaxedur was intensely about people getting filthy rich. intensely relaxed about the matter of historical accuracy, and as a matter of historical fact it is quite wrong when some of these more down market scribblers say that bercow is the shortest man ever to be speaker of the u.k. house of commons. sir john bussey, speaker of the rom 1394se of commons, f
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to 3098. [laughter] the speaker from 1435 to 1456. the u.k.peaker of house of commons from 1459. they are all believed to have been shorter than i am, although i have to admit this was true only after all three of them had been beheaded. [laughter] indeed, no fewer than seven of my predecessors met their end on the executioner's block. one was killed in battle. another unfortunate soul was brutally murdered. so you will understand this enables me to view the challenges which afflict and confront the house of commons and afflict and confront the british body politic more widely, and in all candor i concede periodically afflict me with a appropriate sense of historical perspective. that is to say, whatever else happens to me, i am not likely to lose my head, despite
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occasional rumors to the contrary. that was a state that sadly befell speakers in the eras e andting the emergenc confirmation of british parliamentary democracy. and that concept of british parliamentary democracy is my starting point. as gladstone observed in his spe 1855, 1855, february 23, the business of the house of not to govern the country, but to hold to account those who do. now of course, in our system there is a marked difference from that of the united states. we do not have a separation of
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powers in the same way, and as you will readily recognize, in britain, members of what i call the executive branch, that is to say ministers in the government, do sit in parliament, indeed in both houses of parliament. predominantly in the house of commons and in smaller numbers in the house of lords. clearst so you are beyond. venture, there are roughly 18 ministers, it varies, in the house of commons. that is to say, government ministers in the house of commons. but there are 650 members of 550,ament, so well over 70 membersrs -- 55 of pollen are not members of the executive branch, and there task is to challenge, contradict, and
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even from time to time to expose errors of omission or commission of the government of the day. they are not there purely and in some cases don't see themselves there for this purpose at all, to do what the government wants. they are constituency members of parliament. they deal with casework. they take up local concerns. they study policy and assess legislation and seek to better it, and to challenge and probe and hold to account the executive branch as that branch discharges its duties. the role of the speaker in the british system is of course very different from that in the united states. i have the highest regard for and quite a long-standing link with speaker pelosi. but in the british system, the speaker isn't a party prior.
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the speaker -- isn't a party player. the speaker is from the moment of election required, i was going to say exhorted, nay, eschewd thereafter to party politics and renounce party affiliation. the speaker is independent of, unconnected with, owing no allegiance to and expressing no support for any political party. theole is to umpire proceedings or serve as a referee if you prefer that term. ofm if you will the leader the good order and fair play party. my responsibility is to try to facilitate the house so that all the different points of view can be expressed. i encourage people to take part and try to cut down on the number of people excluded altogether as a result of bad behavior. so you can see where the analogy with a referee or an umpire,
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sometimes perhaps with a teacher or head teacher at a school, kicks in. in addition, i have a responsibility to select anddments to motions amendments or new clauses for debate and vote where legislation is concerned, and periodically to make procedural rulings, as i did back in march when i simply wished to signal to the house that alongside a variety of other considerations, an important consideration was the preservation of and there fore continued respect for the notion that parliamentary time should be properly used, and that the decisions of the house should be respected, and that colleagues should not be beratedlly exhorted ,
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or harangued into taking a whichon on a matter upon they had already pronounced. that's why i said on march the 18th, the so-called "same question rule," the rule that says, the convention that decrees we don't have the same question put or substantially the same question put twice in a session, was important. if the government wanted to come back to the house of commons and put a different proposition to that which was previously put in relation to brexit, it would be perfectly in order for it to do so, and it subsequently did so. but simply to press precisely the same case would run the risk of falling foul of that wed andnt, hallo overwhelmingly complied-with convention. just makei may three further points, and then handed over -- hand it over
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for a wider discussion. my principalaker, and overriding concern for nearly a decade in the chair has the to try to ensure that is and is of the house is lively, more dynamic, more unpredictable, more urgent, more topical, more geared to the focus on and discussion of and expression of different opinions about those matters that preoccupy our electorate. for a long time, that was not the case. the government controls the order paper, that is to say the principal business of the house each day. this government does, its predecessor did, its predecessor did. but the provision in our standing orders has allowed
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matters to be raised if they were considered by the chair to be urgent, had long fallen before i was elected in 2009 into desuetude. so the provision that said that members could apply for a question of the government department was almost held in abeyance, had ceased to be. the year before i was elected speaker, only two urgent questions, typically running to 25 to 30 minute exchanges in the house, probing the government about some matter where there was april controversy -- where there was a controversy,, inconsistency, scandal or embarrassment to be explained or defended. that wasn't happening. i said, if you elect me as a speaker i am urgent to preside over a renaissance of the mechanism of the urgent question, which will be a magnet for colleagues to come to the chamber rather than
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appearing on radio stations, television studios or pending it will be a means by which ministerial feet can be held to the fire. whether i am a good speaker or not is not for me to say, but i have been elected and reelected a total of four times. but no person can be judged in his own court. others must judge that. my central thesis to you is simply that i have done what it said on the tin, and i have granted 618 urgent questions over the last just under 10 years. vast number of members to raise a vast number of questions on a vast miscellany of different issues expanding virtually every government department, and the best ministers in each government tend not to complain.
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jack straw in the labour government, secretary of cavilled at or remonstrated at my decision to grant an urgent question. jack was a man of government but also was a parliamentarian, and wanted to attend to questions and respond. in the present government, if i may say so, i would cite michael gove, jeremy hunt as very good examples of extremely capable ministers who got the intellectual self-confidence as well as the communication skill, the dexterity at the box, as we call it, the dispatch box, to cope with that which is thrown at them. sometimes people complain if the speaker is granted in urgent question, but neither of those two has ever in my ear shot complaint. there are people who know they can hack it.
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so that has been my approach to the business of the chamber. ite widely, i've thought relevant, this is possibly of less interest to some of you, but important to me and a lot of people in parliament, to try to make the house of commons more representative of the country we're charged t represento. and specifically therefore i thought it a priority to make the palace of westminster somewhat more modern. that's why i thought it was ridiculous, when i came into office, we had a shooting gallery, you could go pistol shooting in parliament, but you can't put a baby anywhere because we don't have a nursery. 10 years later, i am pleased to say we no longer have a shooting gallery but we have a very well-subscribe nursery, which was a project of me early -- of
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mine early on. the united states has a wonderful visitor center in washington, and we didn't have an education center. and it was a priority for me to establish a digital, high-tech, interactive, cutting-edge, state-of-the-art facility adjacent to the house of lords to which in due course 100,000 young people a year will come to learn about the journey from 1215 and the signing of the magna carta to the rights and responsibilities british citizens enjoy today. that center is over subscribed, week sculptured income -- schoolchildren come to see it. that is a point of pride. we want to bring people to our democracy and not repel people from it. they are second-order, not first order legislative issues, but
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issues about the culture of the place. i think it is also relevant that we have more women in senior positions, and i made a particular point of appointing more women to prominent positions as speaker's chaplain, counsel, sergeant at arm's, security. there's a lot more to do, but those are changes being made. the last point i want to make to you before i sit down, the speaker has to avoid party controversy. the speaker, however, can be an ambassador for parliament and robust advocate of democratic policies. when i stood for election, i said to colleagues that i don't intend to dress up in a fancy and remain by day incarcerated in the palace of westminster completely inaccessible to the outside world. if you elect me, i will try to be a speaker not just in parliament, but a speaker for parliament, a speaker who welcomes people to parliament
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, hosting charitable functions each week. a speaker who speaks to schools, universities, faith groups, charitable institutions. a speaker who welcomes the united kingdom youth parliament each year to westminster, to the green benches to conduct the debates of their source. a speaker who goes as a matter of pride to their conference everything going your. i promised the u.k. yp that i would go to their conference each year to talk to and hear from them. the reason i have always taken that stance, and i have honored that pledge, is partly that i enjoy it. he enjoys speaking, speaking, and that is why he does it. [laughter] there is an element of truth in that. there is another reason why i do it, and i would like to commend this to you. io fee -- i feel that if ever we in westminster and
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politicians in other great democracies want again to be respected by young people, we h ave to show respect for young people. respect is not our automatic right. two an earned credit, or a -way street. enough from me, notwithstanding quite quite -- your extraordinary courtesy and forbearance. be mightily relieved to know that my speech is now definitively at an end. [applause]
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thomas: thank you, mr. speaker, for the fascinating remarks. i think you will find we are being broadcast on c-span, but you are must-see viewing in the united states over the last two years. we have heard people have been fixated on parliamentary questions, the parliament reprocess, and i am sure we may find out later when you get some detailed, arcane questions on the procedures in the hazard comments. but i wanted to just -- in the
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house of commons. but i wanted to just start, we are in an extra ordinary situation. britain is likely to get another prime minister. candidates are going at each other on brexit. it is unprecedented that the government hasn't had a majority for a key piece of legislation for the last couple years. we want to unpack that and also look at your reflections on your time as speaker. but before we get into that, i would like to turn to amanda, who has done a lot of work here on brexit, for her reflections on your speech, and then maybe we could proceed from there. amanda? amanda: we are delighted that you are here. great that you are able to join us. i appreciate the kind remarks in front of my boss. [laughter] and as thomas said, there has been a tremendous amount of interest in brexit here in washington. there's also been a huge amount of confusion, and part of what i have tried to do is explain some of the arcane palm entry politics to an audience here --
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parliamentary politics to an audience here, so we are delighted you are here to expand the arcane process to us in person. what i was most struck by and perhaps where we could start, i was interested in getting your thoughts on your role and on the role of parliament. you yourself clearly came into the job with a very clear vision for how you wanted to operate as speaker. a number of things that you talked about having changed. saidgrapher of you i saw he changed the job. other lessd hospitable tabloids call you "speaker of the devil," which may be you embrace as a positive. questionsere were parliament had in
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shaping the debate, choosing which amendments, who was able to ask the questions. your role in going back to parliamentary president -- precedent from 1604. i'm curious whether you have an arcane understanding of parliamentary procedure or just a clever staff, making some of the rulings that ended up being quite essential in the way the debate played out. and more broadly, the role of parliament in this process, because it has been quite striking over the last couple months, what you were referring to, has central parliament and the legislature has become in this debate over brexit. one of the questions i have been asked by people here, you know, whether the process is undemocratic. should may for example have consulted more? barnier was consulting quite
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widely with member states. i don't want to put you on the t specifically with your assessment of the prime minister. but more generally, are there lessons to be learned from this experience of brexit in terms of the way parliament functioned? so, many things there. you can respond to what you want. very interested in how you sell your role as speaker and how you performed, specific functions that ended up being quite influential in the debate, and more broadly what we can learn about the role of parliament generally? speaker bercow: amanda, thank you very much. you wrapped up a lot important issues in those remarks, to which i will briefly try to offer an initial response. accidental,'t been the way i have gone about serving as speaker. bitalthough you adjust a
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the longer you are in office, new challenges emerge, you can be on the receiving end of good advice that might cause you to take a slightly different direction, but i think i can honestly say, although i could not have possibly anticipated the brexit situation when i stood for election in 2009, i was clear in my own mind then that there was a problem for parliament, and specifically, colleagues, my assessment of the situation back fromwas that quite aside the reputational carnage inflicted by our expenses scandal, there was a much bigger and more enduring challenge to parliament. that was put very simply, over decades under governments of both colors, the power of government had increased, was continuing to increase, and needed to be decreased. thatich the corollary was
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the power of parliament had decreased, was continuing to decrease, and needed to be increased. in other words, i felt, ladies and gentlemen, there was a disequilibrium within the british body politic. i don't say that is gone. it would be extraordinarily pretentious to say i have been able to reverse that trend definitively or decisively. i don't make such a claim. but i do argue that the way i have gone about the job is to try to allow the house of commons, i have no say in relation, to breathe. citizen i havete my own views on a range of issues, but it is not really about what i think on individual issues.
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it is about what parliament's role should be. virtually every speaker is criticized at some stage for alleged partisanship in our country. his or her decisions are pored over and people say, ah, that is evidence he or she leans that way on this issue or this issue. it is very hard to be free of that charge. the jobless caption of speaker that you are neutral between political parties. or impartial, if you prefer that word. secondly, we are in an age of transparency where everything is trawled over, so everything would see me found out. thirdly, i used to work as americans would put it across the aisle, on a cross party language on speech and language and provisions for children with special educational needs, fighting against global poverty, constitutional reform, the campaign for lgbt equality. i worked on those issues for
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many years on a cross-party basis, so i had long since ceased to be tribal. i think i could claim to be summoned with links across the house. -- someone with links across the house. i have not been impartial about the house. i am impartial within the house, but not about the house. my feeling was that the speaker has got to enable different voices to be heard, whether they theet's say on brexit, voices of strong remainders, -- remainers, for the voices of strong brexiteers. when the committed brexiteers were a minority on the conservative benches under david cameron, i stood up for their right to be heard and to ask urgent questions, to probe, to try to scrutinize better the government of the day, because part of the speaker's job is to champion the rights of minorities.
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eersin a sense the brexit are in the majority within the conservative party. at that orilling knocking that were criticizing that, it is just a statement of fact. but there are other views, and those other views are entitled to be heard. so my approach at question time when ministers deliver statements or the prime minister delivers a statement, we want to enable everybody to be heard, and in that sense you have to be rather un-discriminating. there's not an absolute rule, but statements by a minister were typically followed by exchanges lasting 45 knit or maybe one hour. on --times run statements exchanges on statement by the prime minister for two hours or more, and not out of any desire to make the life of ministers more difficult, but because i feel that these are momentous matters, and every voice should be heard. and if that means we spend a bit
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what other incredibly important business is more important later in the day than that executives representatives, the prime minister or the brexit secretary should be fully yes, painstakingly, remorselessly question. when people say the speaker called this one before that one or the was a debate on this one got in earlier and that one got in late. well, if i may say so, under my aegis on my watch i made a it certain that far more people get in all views. i think i've been fair-minded.
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i was aware of the issue and i a bit of research and i saw for myself what had been rolled in 1604. and there were people who said what and old hat conviction, that i argued that the absence of speaker intervention in relation to that convention was attributable not to the discontinuation of the convention but rather the general compliance with it. in other words, the speaker had to intervene because generally it had been observed. originally that convention owed its foundation to abuse of parliamentary time that often by backbench members repeatedly introducing the same measure. some i did say to me, john, it was introduced to upset the government of the day. but the equality should apply here and if it is wrong for a
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backbench member repeatedly to press a case which has been a use the term in the parliamentary sense disposed of, the same principle should apply to a government. i have every respect for theresa may. so it is not intended to knock her, but if the government is put a proposition and this has been dealt with in that session, you know, the idea of the same proposition should be put over and over and over again in the hope the answer will change not in my judgment be right. as for as she's concerned it's not for me to say whether she should take a different approach. the only thing i will say i have every respect for her, she's made her decision to depart, and i think on a human level, anyone -- she's always treated me with complete courtesy and respect and i appreciate that.
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i think the loss of the majority in 2017 of the general election made it very much more difficult for her. now, there may be people say well, if after that a different approach had been taken, different outcome might have been achieved or we might not be where we are now. know this was , speculative. as we go from here, well, my own view about it is we have to wait to see who emerged as next prime minister but the appetite of the house to have its say has whetted,been wetted -- and that appetite is not exhausted. indeed, some would say it's voracious. the house will want to have it s say and the idea that the house will not have its say is just for the birds.
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is idea that parliament going to be, it may in due course for reasons of refurbishment be physically that committee, but the idea the parliament is going to be evacuated from the center stage of debate on brexit is unimaginable. it is simply unimaginable. >> just on that because i think point, this is a very sort of important point that people are looking at in the present sort of context, the candidates of the tory party leadership are promising, several of them to , force through a new deal brexit on october 31 if they can't renegotiate the backstop as part of the deal in brussels. which most observers think it is unlikely they will get concessions that the previous prime minister did not get. do you think that a prime minister committed to a no deal brexit can force it through? there's been speculation if they are determined not to play ball that the house of commons big we
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-- they can basically force it through, or that the conference on a roleof insist and will be able to block written from crashing out of the eu on halloween? >> thomas, thank you. my reading of the situation is that legally the default position in the absence of an agreement, a deal, is brexit on the 31st of that is to say, the october. absence of the deal and in the absence of a further extension. that is the legal position as i understand it. there was a bill passed, ladies and gentlemen, under the leadership of that group from the labor side and from the conservative side to prevent a new deal brexit, that i think i'm right in saying, that piece of legislation which was passed
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referred to a particular set of circumstances in april and, therefore, it's been overtaken by events. so legally the scenario, thomas, that you highlight and which you say is spoken to by a number of you who seek to be prime minister, that is so. that can however be a difference between what the law says and what political movement between now and then political activity decrees. and i'm not saying that brexit without a deal will happen and i'm not saying that it definitely won't. i am saying, i'm very clear in my mind that parliament and individual parliamentarians will have strong views about these matters. there is a difference between a legal default position and what the interplay of physical forces -- political forces in
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parliament will facilitate. it's not for me, ladies and gentlemen, please don't take umbrage with this, it's not for me to seek to claim to know what is the will of the people. it's not for me to seek, to claim to know that. that's not a matter for the speaker. my job is to stand up for the right of the house of commons institution, as right of individual member of parliament to express themselves, and to try to take policy forward as they think fit. so i think there is much debate still to be had. and the idea that there is inevitability, i don't think anybody is saying this, i'm not aware of it, but the idea that there is an inevitability of a no deal brexit would be a quite wrong suggestion, a quite wrong suggestion. there is no inevitability whatsoever about that.
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howard wilson was not whatever greatest primeur ministers in the uk. is probably most famous adage was, a week is a long time in politics. there's a lot still be said, and nothing should be taken for granted. it was said we would be out of the european union by the 29th of march and then by the 12th of april and in due course we maybe on whatever basis. we may be that at the moment the united kingdom remains a member of the european union and there is much debate to be had and policy to be determined, and conclusion to be reached. >> amanda, did you want to come in on this point? >> i wanted to ask where does this leave the country and broader constitutional terms? we have a situation where the
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government lost a referendum that it brought, where the government has not had a parliamentary majority to deliver on the results of that referendum. so i wonder if we're saying tension between direct democracy with the people able to speak in a referendum, a parliamentary democracy where you have gridlock in parliament and parliament isn't able to deliver on that and then also an executive that is not able to deliver on that. so interested in where you see this tension between direct democracy and parliamentary democracy. then also more broadly what this is likely to do to the country going forward. it seems now we've seen with the european parliament elections the two establishment parties, the conservative, labour, both had very bad elections, increasing support for the greens, for the liberal democrats, for the brexit party. all parties argued that a much
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so you have a very polarized country and a very polarized parliament. and so where the country even in broader terms is able to go forward with this not to mention potential questions for scotland, for northern ireland. when you have such deep divisions within the country. >> can i just underscore one element? written never had a referendum -- britain never had a referendum before 1975. it's the first ever reference was on leaving the eu in 1975 and the government wanted to remain on this -- there's virtually been no referendum since. there was the voting system referendum, yes, conservative that basically one and then there was regional referendums in northern ireland and scotland, but as someone who sort of grew up reading a lot of british history, it was drummed into us that parliamentary sovereignty and sort of the burkeans notion of the mp was what really mattered and direct democracy was sort of european
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thing that led to the destabilization of germany and other places. and i guess just in addition to amanda's question, i would just ask, has brexit sort of fundamentally undermined -- doesn't fundamentally threaten the bridge system of parliamentary democracy? do you see a fundamental tension between having referendums and this institution that you are charged to sort of uphold its tradition and this sort of constitutional role? >> i don't want to fudge it because it is an important issue, but that is risk for nuance here and calibration if i can put it like that. if you ask me is there an automatic and sort of incompatibility between parliamentary democracy and a referendum, the answer is no. there isn't an automatic
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incompatibility between the two. it is possible to have a referendum on a particular matter at a given time and for parliamentary democracy to continue to thrive, to prosper, it to be either to a greater or to lesser extent unblemished by the experience. i think the truth of the matter is that there are very few absolutes in these matters. when the decision was made by the cameron government to seek a referendum on brexit, the term brexit, ladies and gentlemen, for scholars of these matters had scarcely been coined at the time but we know of what we speak. the issue is should we stay in the european union or not? prime minister cameron was made
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abated by a number of considerations there was a growth in the ukip voter he faced pressure within his own party and he made the judgment that this was the right way to put the issue to bed. and there were a number of people who agreed. indeed i remember myself at the time thinking, well, there is an argument for it because the matter isn't readily capable of resolution by normal methods. that is to say, parliamentary debate and elections. the reason why it couldn't be treated in the way was all of the major parties, conservative labour, liberal democrats, were in favor of continued british membership. so a general election couldn't be the vehicle for sorting out the issue of brexit. i could see an argument for a referendum.
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i'm not sure, you can ask david cameron, i think is very preoccupied with the challenges that his own party faced at the time and he thought this would be a way of overcoming some of those difficulties. i'll leave you to judge whether, in fact, the matter has been satisfactorily resolved in the way he envisioned and dearly hoped. my point really, and forgive me if you don't regard this as satisfactory, but it is my point, is that the only duty of a member of parliament is to do what he or she thinks is right. now, you may say come on, john, i didn't come to hear you say that, but that is my honest view. so there is a view that says the referendum supersedes anything else. parliament legitimately not as a result of a mass rally or a position told a meeting a la a greek city state in parliament square, parliament legislated
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for a referendum and the referendum went in favor of brexit against the wishes and to a considerable extent the expectation of much i will describe non-pejoratively as a british establishment. but that's what happened. and so there is a few this is that's it, that's it, we didn't talk about having best-of-three or best-of-five. most members voted for the legislation across the house and just on the conservative side , across the house, and the referendum happened and that the outcome and our task is to deliver it. that is an opinion. moreover, it may be that if a member of parliament flies in the face of that i voice or by boat and say no, i don't accept that, that member of parliament may face sanction within his party. i'm not making a party political point, ladies and gentlemen, on
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point. making a factual and example of my colleague, dominic agreed to is a former attorney general in the cameron government and dominic is a strong remainer member of parliament. he recently it's not money but originally suffered a no-confidence motion concern in his local party because he said he thinks there should be a further referendum and he thinks it's a great act of economic and political self harm for britain union.e the european or a member of parliament could fly in the face of his are her constituents and get kicked out of parliament. those are political matters. but if you ask me is there a legal duty for an mp to vote for a referendum, the result of the referendum, or vote against the result of the referendum, the answer is no. there is no legal duty at all.
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it's a matter of choice for the member. the member must decide what he or she thinks is right, right for the country, perhaps right ight for ther r world. they may face consequences if they fly in the face of the party or their voters. that's a choice that they can make. that's one point. the second point with which i leave you on this question is , i'm not arguing for or against, i am simply making a factual point. the referendum legislation was in the 2015-17 parliament the -- the referendum took place on the 23rd of june 2016, and parliament then in vote article 50, the two-year countdown to brexit, and it did so in march 2017.
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those are very significant matters. they are relatively recent decisions and they can't just be wished away or sniffed at or said to be of no consequence. they are a consequence, but those matters were matters decided by the last parliament. no parliament can bind its success of the most recent parliament was elected on june 8, 2017. so this parliament can do as this parliament thinks fit. now, there might be somebody who to signale is trying what parliament should do. no, i'm not trying to signal the part should do x or y. bercow is some at the august -- appearing at the august brookings institution and give an honest answer to question. i admit that i'm not adding to or subtracting the network has a -- as a matter of fact. if you ask me if i'm unashamedly pro-parliament. yes, i am a passionate about parliamentary democracy. i believe passionately parliament must do what parliament thinks is right. you are absolutely right, you
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know your history. edmund burke at one time a member of parliament for bristol famously said in his bristol speech, as your member of you not merelywe my industry, the old-fashioned word for hard work, my judgment, and i betray instead of serving if i sacrifice my judgment to your opinion. mps once they are elected have a responsibility, not just a right but a duty to do what they think is right in terms of voice and vote. thank you. >>thank you. that was great. i think we want to go to the audience in a few minutes, but did i think what to look a little bit at the broader picture as well outside of the uk because you became speaker in 2009, and so if i'm not mistaken that was the sort of start of the financial crisis. and since then we've seen this
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upswing in populism across the atlantic and across the world really. so i guess, i think amanda has a question here as well to add in here but i would just ask how is the tone of politics really changed in your time as speaker? you have been witness to this sort of rise in populism and divisiveness that we seen across the world playing out spectacularly of course in london. so i would be very curious for your reflections on that, but i wanted to bring amanda and as well on sort of the us angle to this, too. amanda we are in washington so : of course ask a trump related question. president trump of course is going to be in london next week for a state visit. he was there in 2017, and you blocked him from addressing parliament during that time citing opposition to racism and sexism as well as the migrant
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ban. we did note xi jinping did address parliament in a state visit in 2015. so in your effort to allow and encourage free speech and debate in parliament and encourage it among your mps, we were interested in your criteria -- [laughter] and why one and not the other? >> ok. well look, i'll deal with the second question first with respect, i shall come onto yours. amanda, in relation to president trump, the first point to make is that no request has been received by me for president trump to address a gathering of both houses of parliament in westminster. no request has been received. amanda on the current trip? : you mean for his visit -- >> that's quite true, yes, in relation to the current trip.
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i did express myself on this matter of february the sixth 2017. there was a certain amount of internal correspondence at that time, and it was certainly being considered at that time. i'm not sure whether it was a formal request. i don't recall receiving a formal request but there was a certain amount of correspondence and discussion obvious at the time that it didn't happen and i have nothing to add to or subtracting what i said on february 6, 2017, of which you're you have just given up a very eloquent process. [laughter] but in this case no request has been received. that's the first point. the second point i think that's worth making, because you are either academics yourself or you have taken interest in academic study, academic research and empirical evidence. there is a view abroad, other -- and i use the term abroad in
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a political sense, that it is the unbreakable norm, the very established and hallowed convention for a visiting president of the united states coming to uk to address the houses of parliament. and if you'll forgive me saying so, this is not so. it is not in any sense and unbreakable norm or hallowed convention. it has often happened, ladies and gentlemen, but it hasn't happened every case. if memory serves me correctly, i was not in parliament at the time, president reagan did indeed addressed both houses of parliament in the royal gallery, which is a very prestigious venue, but it is usually regarded as a slightly less prestigious venue in westminster hall. the fact is that president obama was invited to address both houses of parliament in westminster hall, and that was very well received.
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his address was very well received. he was a comparatively popular president in europe and, indeed, as far as my colleagues in the house of lords and house of in the uk,ld tell and he also was of course the first black president of the united states. and he was invited to address both houses of parliament and westminster hall and it's a great source of pride for me to welcome him on that occasion. his address was very well received, and to be honest people to this day talk about how behind the scenes he behaved everybody. it was a very celebrated occasion. i think i'm right in saying that george bush senior did not address the houses of parliament in either of the venues that i have mentioned or any other. and george w. bush did not do so. i think one of them came during a parliamentary recess and
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whether there was a request made i don't know. i wasn't in post at the time. but certainly george w. bush didn't. so all i'm saying is it is not an unbreakable norm and that's the second point. then the third point in relation to the chinese president is a point very well made. by you. let me be absolutely honest with you. you know i mentioned earlier that i had a sort of basic sense of how i wanted to operate as speaker, but you learn new things as you go along and you get new advice. let's face it, you make mistakes . you do, you make mistakes. in looking back, do i think there is a powerful argument that says that perhaps the chinese president should not have been invited to address both houses of parliament? there is a powerful argument. i'm not saying it's conclusive but he say to me john, you know,
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i'm not necessarily nokia in -- knocking you in relation to trump, but why did you think it right to allow the chinese president address? at the time the lord speaker and i were persuaded over some merit we were trying to develop the relationship. the chinese president addressing us seemed not to provoke general consternation. that was my sense, something that i had to take into account. there was a general of outrage amongst parliamentary colleagues at the id and it seemed to me to be a reasonable proposition. wasn't necessarily the right decision? no, not necessarily and an open did i did that maybe, maybe i i should have come to a different view about it. but what is past is past. somebody i think at one point dug up the fact that in 2012 the emir of kuwait address both houses of parliament not to be honest in the royal westminster hall, and the most junior of the
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possible settings for such an address in the robing room in the house of lords which is a much smaller room. i remember looking into it at the time because i wasn't necessarily enamored of the idea and i was told on advice of my comparison with a lot of other countries in the part of the world, you know, his record was not particularly bad and there was something to be said for allowing him to address us. was right about that? probably not but those matters , are passed and, you know, we made the judgment we did. i was at an earlier stage in my speakership but the emir decision was made from not sort of standing or sitting at saying i'm right about everything and whatever i say, please agree with me. we are all open to criticism, and maybe i was one of those matters. i don't want to dilate on the matter of president trump. i've nothing to add or subtract
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from what i said in february 2017. and, you know, nothing has happened since then -- [laughter] me to change my mind, although some people might say quite a lot of things have happened to cause me to remain of the same view, which is why i have nothing to add to or subtract from what i said on that occasion. as regards to wider population, i am concerned about that. in one sense i'm passionate about parliament. i'm really proud of what house of commons is in terms of assertiveness, and the sheer range of colleagues who speak up and speak out on matters dear to them. this is something that horrifies the government whips it way back in 2011, i'm guessing this was the right thing, i'm guessing i tried to do right thing by parliament. 2011 the so-called backbench business committee of the house
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which was reform i championed decided to have a debate on whether there should be a referendum on british membership of the eu. the government won the vote because the opposition voted with the government or abstain. i think they voted with the government. and the company won the vote and some against the referendum at the time. what shocked david cameron and the chief whip was a very large number of conservative mps reveled against the government and in favor of the referendum and i think 81 rebels. and over 50 of them were new in mps. this was regarded as almost sacrilege. a new him p was normal expected just to be loyal and ambitious and do as he or she was told. and the government whips were absolutely horrified that the idea you new mps were voting with your consciousness but actually i'm in favor of mps voting as they think that, whatever the whip says. i had a relationship with the tory whips with trust an -- and understanding. i didn't trust them and they didn't understand me.
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[laughter] the idea of parliament speaking for what believes i think is ait of more and more social networking sites, in many ways is a positive thing. it is a space for people to speak who aren't powerful, or rich, or established journalists. it is a good thing in many ways. i do think that where i witnessed this year dumbing down and of debate and the replacement of the reasoned argument on an issue with the ad hominem personal attack, that doesn't exactly make my soul sing. i feel sad for parliament in politics and i have loathed the
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development whereby people are subject come up for simply doing what they think is right, or for being who they are, have been subject to the most venomous personal attacks. and a lot of people of strong opinions in our parliament have been denounced, attacks and excoriated and personally viscerally, brutally, viciously abused simply for saying what they think. there is as a matter of fact no doubt that women have disproportionally been on the receiving end of this abuse. subry, member of change you carry, a very outspoken pro-au member, luciana, for many years, member of labor in parliament, she is a jewish member of parliament who has been subject to the most appalling, racist abuse on social networking sites from the extreme right in the extreme
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and the list goes on. , another jewish member has been attacks like this. this approach to politics in parliament sticks. this has nothing to do with genuine debate and everything to do with threatening and bullying and intimidating people out of the public square. and if i may say so, those who have reported politics as though people expressing independent -minded views let's say on , brexit, are somehow malcontents, traitors, enemies of the people, have a lot to answer for. we have to be careful to preserve that principle that we play the ball, not the man or the woman. voltaire ito , disagree with what he says but defend the debt his right to see
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say it -- the idea that might is that is against every democratic principle, every notion of democratic pluralism, every concept of parliamentary representation dear to me. have a system where the people who shout the loudest almost abusively get their way. [applause] host: thank you. so we have 50 minutes for questions. ,t will take three at a time thing that allows you to choose which you want to answer. au have to be short with question. if you abuse that, you don't just get in trouble with me, you get in trouble with him. gentleman at the very back. mr. bercow: say whatever you want. whatever you want. >> hello. i am a german diplomat working
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currently at one of the think tanks in town, csis. the not asking orstion to make my tie myself famous today, but i wanted to continue on the question thomas just asked and your answer to it. if you see this tendency you describe of more split views, of more ghastly arguments, not arguments but rhetoric, i do understand the role of yourself , but is it as umpire conceivable that you work more on the spirit of compromise to get members of parliament to work more on the spirit of compromise in the future? possible politically? i think in a wider sense, both in europe and here, that is
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something we need. host: thank you. lady in the middle, four rows up. yes? >> hi,. i am an assistant professor of european studies at johns hopkins university. my question is about the time-consuming effects of brexit and then wondering to what extent the activities in parliament have been disrupted, the more mundane day-to-day political issues in which the country and mps have to vote, to what extent have they been disrupted by the brexit process? host: thank you. one more from the lady just behind you. >> former british member of parliament. [laughter] -- fortunately before your time, or not fortunately before your time. your name? name.rcow: your
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>> oona macdonald. mr. bercow: oh! former labor member of parliament. >> indeed, what a brilliant memory. [applause] mr. bercow: a distinguished academic. >> my question is a general one. how would you think you will go down in history as speaker? [laughter] mr. bercow: ok. first of all, on the question of whether, in the light of the growth of columbus is and contrary them -- growth of all polemicism, and contrary in politics, or personalized politics, there might be scope for greater attempt to forge compromise, thing there is a strong chance of that, to be
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honest. it is not something that is really for the speaker to to promote in any very forceful way. why, because when you take a position on something like that, there are people who don't agree and will say, you are effectively, even if in a benign in isl-meaning way, or nonparty, political wife, trying to call the shots on how we operate. to give you a simple example, one of the most common questions put to me, mr. speaker, why don't you intervene when x or y, is clearly not answering the question? and i don't, because if i do, i have the danger of being a player rather than a referee. i say to people, it if it is of yesteryear you that the question is not being answered, it is obvious to everybody else.
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and people can make their judgment on that. order if theyto are not attending to the matter on the debate. for if they go too long, be it a minister or backbencher. often i will say, the abridged war and peace version would be rather appreciated. [laughter] one journalist really rather well interpreted me when he said -- column, i am extremely when a speaker says i'm extremely grateful to the honorable gentleman that probably translates as shutting shut it, sunshine. [laughter] it is not for me to decree there should be more consensus speaking. do i think there is a strong chance of that? i do. it is not for me to take sides in different leadership contenders. but i have heard prominent people in recent days talk about consensus.
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there are people on the labour benchers who would say that and i expect all the leadership contenders on the conservative side were rather have more support in what is a very balanced parliament, then not. and i think there are lots of people on the other side. it is a question of translating the aspiration of consensus into the determined pursuit of it. the so thereike are lots of readers and prime ministers who have said, i want to bring an end to punch and judy. a lot of viewers might like slugfest, but, a there is a real that, let's have more rational discourse, less personal abuse, fewer attacks of the personality kind. but the trouble is, the competitivity between the parties doesn't always happen. tend to likeases
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the attack dog stuff. nobody wants to start first. they are in favor of peace but not just yet. augustine -- make me virtuous, but not just yet. i don't know whether that would happen, but i think there is a possibility of it. in relation to the second question from our friend from john hopkins university, if i understood correctly, is our stuff being crowded out? yes. it is not an act of deliberate policy by anybody, but the bandwidth, ladies and gentlemen, available of other matters to be treated on by the house is inevitably denied or restricted, or curtailed because there are only so many hours of the day. so unless we set for four more days in the year, w inevitably come stuff would otherwise be considered is not considered. is that a problem? most people would agree that is a problem. that other matters are not
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getting the priority they would. i don't blame that on any one individual or indeed on one political party, it is just a fact, it is a consequence, if you like. it is the collateral damage caused by the fact that as yet we haven't resolved the brexit issue. i think it is likely to be a short to medium-term phenomenon, not a long-term phenomenon but is it a problem? it is. you have to be careful what you interpret from it because people say i totally agree with that question and that is why we have to -- people will interpret it to suit them. they will say, i agree, we ought , be talking about x or y rather than get this brexit deal sorted. talking about the withdrawal agreement, and if there is a withdrawal agreement, or indeed, a brexit on the 31st of october, is not realistic. there are years of debate ahead
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as to the contours of a future relationship in trade, security and partnership terms. there is a big challenge. but we have a duty to use our time efficiently and to try to protect the parliamentary space for other issues, including ,ssues that affect majorities public service provisions, including issues that affect vulnerable minorities of the population. parliament exist to protect them as well. so we have got to try to find a safe space and adequate time for aired,ther issues to be debated, and policy developed. and to the third question, how do i think i will go down in history? i will certainly go down. [laughter] i will certainly go down. i am not sure. i don't honestly -- and thank you for coming, you and i did not know each other personally, but you were a member of
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parliament before a certain person got under the way. i have known him for quite some time, i am not sure he shared your view on politics. he did not share your cerebral approach to political discourse. -- i spend a lot of time don't spend a lot of time fretting about my legacy. people ask me about that all the time. to someone on the internet, i must say, i don't spend a lot of time looking at these websites. and somebody called out, very wise. [laughter] you know, i just try to do the right thing. i would like to be remembered, if i am remembered at all, as a backbencher's champion, somebody who stood up for the rights of ordinary parliamentarians to have their voices heard.
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i do feel, if you will forgive me saying so, and even if you , that it is not for the speaker to be the cheerleader for the executive branch, it is not the speaker's job to make life easy for the government, or to side with the leaders of the opposition either or be a cheerleader for the opposition, but it is his job to stand up for the rights of parliament. , you knowen been told him, i am sure, i have been told approving stories about the speaker from 1983-1992. i did not know him, because i don't have this completely proven, but i know it was said at one time, that a prominent conservative prime minister who was most irked and irritated by some of the decisions from the chair that jack was making. you will remember, margaret thatcher never wanted jack to be
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speaker. she did not think he was one of us. she wanted humphrey atkins, a a rather debonair character. they didn't want humphrey to be speaker, amen, and of subjects. but jack became speaker and he ended up making some decisions which irked some conservatives. a senior conservative went to to see him and said to him, jack, i am bound to say that some of the decisions you are making our most disagreeable to the government, and i was remind speaker, sir, that you are conservative, and you are a conservative speaker. and jack's response was to say no, i am not a conservative. , i gave up party affiliation on becoming speaker, as this speaker did. i'm not a conservative speaker. i am the speaker, and my job is to do what i judge right for the house of commons. good morning.
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and he opened the door, and that person left the room, and the door was closed. to be honest, that is my attitude. i've got to do what i think is right. if you are not robust enough to stand up for what you think is right, then frankly, you are not fit to be speaker. i am happy to be judged. some people may judge me well and some might judge me harshly. the key question is, can you look yourself in the mirror, in pug uglyit is a pretty sight, can i look myself in the mirror and answer yes to the question -- have you behaved honestly? and the answer is i have and i do so. i can look myself in the mirror. [applause] host: mr. speaker, thank you so much. i think we promised to get you out of here at 11:15 because you
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have another -- we have two people who have been very patient here. then we will try to wrap it up. very brief, please. >> thank you. i'm peter sutley, retired from brookings. one of the key requirements of a successful democracy is an informed electorate. i'm not sure we have that in the -- i am not sure we meet that requirement in the u.s. now. i don't know about britain. what might be done to address that problem. host: thank you. the gentleman behind you? >> i am teaching european politics at georgetown. how do you envisage a no-deal theit, because even if proposal and agreement between theresa may and brussels is being rejected by the house of commons, some decisions must be made on the same issues. about whether or not to pay the
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bill, several billion euros presented by the au, what to do with the -- presented by the e.u., what to do with the irish border, and if the deal is not accepted, then the house of commons and the government must make a deal. host: sorry, we're out of time. the question? >> if there is no legitimate -- sion host: we have a question. so, the lady beside you. diminishedill the u.s. commitment to n.a.t.o. influence any formation of your european armed forces to replace ? -- the diminished u.s.
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-- itment to n.a.t.o. host: it is a little bit outside of the speakers -- and he went >> and, another question, what is the vision for your country? host: amanda, was there anything you want to underscore? mr. speaker, i think i would add to the gentleman's questions, on the political system, in britain, i wonder if you have any reflections on it. you are facing a general election in a fragmented political system. is this added data given all this indigenous fragmentation we are seeing. amanda: the fragmentation and pulling off the last one. is always the last questions that are the hardest. the future of the country looking particularly at scotland
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and northern ireland and whether brexit will have more implications for the constitutional integrity of the u.k.? like i said, you can pick which one you want to answer. mr. bercow: as far as the question of the electorate being fully informed. we always capable of improvement. i'm not going to knock the people of the united kingdom and the people of the united kingdom can make decisions in general elections and in referenda and they have regularly done so. hoping you always can broker a greater understanding and increased awareness and extended participation. it is a huge issue. my honest answer to you is that better like to see much focus on the education of our citizens.
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citizenship education in schools in my view would be rolled out across the country, a very good thing. sex andwe have relationship education, just as we have sometime spent on physical exercise, just as many people would accept there is a merit in giving a basic induction to people in simple financial concepts, having a , the importance of decent household management, good things for you people to learn, personally, i think it would be a great thing if right across the u.k., every british schoolchild had a basic grasp of the tenets of a modern democracy. of politics, of the importance of voting, of what different parts of parliament did, what the relationship is between
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parliament and the judiciary, and so on. that is not saying everyone ,hould do what we call a gcse the exam typically taken in 16 in british schools. but on basic awareness it would be a good thing. i spend a lot of time talking to school students and i do a skype session with school students from the education center of parliament every monday morning, and i get asked a lot of these questions about the way the political system works, and i am happy to answer them and try to use technology to get it out more widely. but would it not be a great thing if the so-called foundation country for democracy, where we pride ourselves on having the mother of parliaments, took pride in telling people about the british parliamentary system and how it works? we don't do so on a concentrated or focused basis. i think there would be real merit in doing so.
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i often start by saying, how many are interested in politics? scarcely any hands go up. when i talk to people across the country, how many of you care about the job you will get when you the school? many hands go up. how many of you care that we should have decent health care for all? how many of you care about our difid and other means, trying to do its bit to improve the lot of one billion people around the world who e ke out an existence on less than one dollar a day? a massive amount of hands go up. i say, you say you are not interested in politics, and you are turned off by the attacks, the abuse, people shouting at each other, and maybe you aren't interested in the procedures of politics, but
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as far as the stuff of politics are concerned, many of you are interested. the second question, is remain the default position? that inby the view legal terms, the default position would be that unless tournament acted to prevent brexit -- you know, we are shed jeweled, if there isn't an extension, we are scheduled to leave on the 31st of october. i am not counseling or agitating for that or arguing for that, that is pretty obvious from what i have said, i am simply saying that that is the position as i understand it. it may not be the normative view, but it is the actual position as things stand. to the very last question, future of the country. [laughter] there have been some critical questions asked about president trump. perhaps i can just say to you, i am absolutely passionate about parliamentary democracy.
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i'm passionate too about our worldwide network of relationships. it should not be either or. you don't have to take the attitude that being pro-american is being anti-european of being -- anti-european, or be pro-european means being anti-american. and our relationship with the far east is very important. what do i believe? i am very pro-american, i have ,lways loved the united states and i think our relationship with the united states should subsist long into the future. it is much bigger than the question of what the record or performance of a particular president might be. that relationship should survive. in the 1960's, the 1970's, the 1980's, or now, should be. we believe in democracy, the rule of law, we believe on the
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whole free enterprise is a better source of wealth creation compatible with human liberty than any other system devised by humankind and that remains my view. i happen to think that alongside a thriving economy and strong defenses in a world of great uncertainty, and to both of those, i attach the highest importance, the question of what is in our dna, in terms of the celebration of diversity and respect for equality is writ large. i think that matters. for example, in my own country, i think that multiracial britain is much better as a country than before we became multiracial he britain. in whichng a country people, irrespective of background, color, ethnicity,
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irrespective of religious affiliation, irrespective of gender, irrespective of sexuality irrespective of , disability can thrive, is incredibly important. my vision of the future, a vision in which social mobility is dramatically advanced. people often talk about the problem, the huge global problem of the fight against global poverty. but even within our own country, there is a huge challenge of social mobility. harold wilson as prime minister used to talk about how poor he was as a kid. his opponent once famously said, if harold wilson went to school with no boots on, it was only because he was too big for them. [laughter] to bercow: i don't want exaggerate and say that i came from a background of grinding poverty. a government school. i didn't have private resources. my wife and i have three kids, we went to good state schools in
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london. and i feel strongly people should get on on the basis of merit and resourcefulness, not on the basis of background of birth or special privilege. i also believe that it any society, first of all, everybody depends on public services. i don't want to be unkind, but under successive governments for all its faults and failings i much prefer the british approach to health care, if i may say so -- [applause] mr. bercow: i much prefer the british approach to health care, and people always depend on public services. 93% of kids go to state schools. and i also think you have got to remember, there is a proportion of people who for whatever reason can't cope and they do need government to help them and that is incredibly important.
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mr. bercow: i think any country that says, the rich will prosper and the devil will take the hind post, that will be uncivilized. that's not the position taken by the british government or the british opposition. that is not civilized. it should be part of the dna of a decent society, that we keep the best and improve the rest. and we, in particular ensure that those at the bottom of the pile are protected, nurtured, and are given a chance. all too often around the world, i am not referring to anyone country. all too often around the world communities and gentlemen, this is the criticism of the performance of modern democracies. that still is not the case. if you look to those countries in scandinavia rathe where the gap between rich and poor is lesser, mental health is superior, the happiness quota is greater, the level of acrimony and dispute is lower.
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try to pursuet us some of those features of the good society, which isn't just about wealth, but about warmth. not just about how much you earn, but about what protections for equality of life you enjoy. [applause] >> thank you for an incredible presentation and discussion here and thank you for your leadership. very much look forward to seeing you in action in the coming months and will be waiting to see what the next developments are in brexit. could i ask you to remain seated while the speaker leaves. and please join with me in thanking him. and with that, we are adjourned. saltalamacchia captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit
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- saltalamacchia >> watch speeches all week on crmp span, missouri republican senator at the kings college. d lauren underwood speaks in oakland california. and there are remarks at boston university law school and look ack to may, 2009 for ellen speaking at tulane. watch speeches tonight. watch online any time and listen app. free c-span radio >> c-span's washington jourm
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live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up wednesday morning -- >> tomorrow look at oversight of the justice department and intelligence community as the agencies investigate president trump. judicial watch hosts the event t 10:00 a.m. on c-span2.
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remarks in joint of chiefs of staff on current national security threats. it starts live wednesday at 10:30 a.m. wednesday on c-span. . she serves as director for the center on religion and civil society at the heritage foundation. much of your work has focused on the equality act, which passed the house early this month. a 236-173 vote. remind viewers what the equality act purports to do. guest: first of all, i give for having me on. we believe all americans have human dignity. our concerns about the act is that it elevates sexual orientation and gender identity ideology to become a civil right. to codify that in federal law


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