FoI Reveals Bercow Acted Without Formal Clerk Advice on Benn Bill

A Freedom of Information request seen by Guido has revealed that in his extraordinary facilitation of the Surrender Act – delaying Brexit day a fourth time through to 2020 – Bercow did not receive any written advice from his clerks. Originally, the FoI request was turned down by the House Authorities, who originally opted to “neither confirm nor deny” if they held information on the matter. Lindsay Hoyle personally reconsidered the House’s original decision, revealing yesterday that “no written advice from the Clerk is held.”

Readers will remember that Bercow overruled the advice of his clerks in January last year, facilitating an anti-Brexit amendment from Dominic Grieve. This FoI now reveals that he went a step further in October, not seeking any written advice at all – seemingly preferring to engage in freestyle constitutional vandalism. Hoyle was so furious with Bercow’s denigration of his clerks that in January he announced a new mechanism to publish advice in the House of Commons library when there is a disagreement… 

Read the relevant section of the FoI reply here…

“You asked us for all written communications passing between the Speaker and the Clerk of the House of Commons that was prepared so as to enable the Speaker to rule on the need or otherwise for Queen’s Consent to be given before the recent Benn/Burt Bill could proceed.

Owing to the unusual circumstances of this case, and on this occasion only, the Speaker is prepared to confirm that no written advice from the Clerk is held.

We would also like to clarify that advice from clerks may be written or verbal – the format of that advice may depend on a range of circumstances. At the same time, we assert the importance in general terms of the NCND provision in the context of the application of the FOI regime to matters covered by parliamentary privilege.”

Even more reason not to stick him in the Lords…

mdi-account-multiple-outline John Bercow Lindsay Hoyle
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