UK House of Commons drama, impartiality of Speaker questioned

A report from Missy in the UK:


More drama in the House of Commons today after PM Questions.

Background: In December Parliament passed a motion on the Meaningful Vote for the Withdrawal Agreement. In this motion it was stated that if the Agreement did not pass the Government had to go back to Parliament within 21 days with a further proposal for leaving the EU. This motion is what is referred to as a forthwith motion. Forthwith is a technical term used, and means that a motion must be put forward for a decision by the Commons without debate or amendment. For this particular motion, whilst it is a forthwith motion it was agreed by the Commons that no amendment could be made to it by any member except a Minister of the Crown. Essentially this motion can only be amended by a Minister and not a backbench or opposition MP.

Today Conservative MP, (and former Attorney General), Dominic Grieve put forward an amendment to this motion changing the 21 days to 3 days. This was signed by MPs from across the House. The clerks advised the Speaker that this amendment was not selectable, and should not be selected for vote. The speaker had previously told another MP that amendments could not be tabled to a forthwith motion. However, despite it being precedent that the speaker takes the advice of the clerks and despite this being an amendment to a forthwith motion, the speaker selected it and tabled the motion.

For over an hour Government MPs raised Point of Order after Point of Order regarding Parliamentary precedent, and the Speaker not taking the advice of the clerks. The Speaker was asked several times what the advice of the clerks was, he refused to say (a journalist was told by a source in the clerks office which is where the information came from that they had advised against it).

The speaker admitted that he had not taken into account Parliamentary precedent, or given any thought to the implications of his decision, he was only interested in the here and now. The implications, however, could be serious in the future. He has set a precedent where the Speaker can change the rules of the debate whenever he likes, and he has also sent the message that precedent doesn’t matter in Parliament, despite it being one of the fundamental Parliamentary Conventions which is part of the uncodified British Constitution.

A bit on the Speaker himself. Last year allegations arose of the Speaker bullying staff in the Commons, and that he had been doing it for any number of years. Some in the Commons called on him to resign. Labour MPs, and some Conservative MPs who support Remain, resisted attempts to force the Speaker out, noting he has openly stated he voted Remain and does not support Brexit.

This has been raised again today as some wonder if the Speaker allowing Dominic Grieve’s amendment to be tabled is his way of paying back those MPs that have kept him in his position, I am not sure that is quite right, but over the last year or so his impartiality on matters pertaining to Brexit has been called into question.

 

UK v Trump on GCHQ accusation

The UK  Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has issued a statement categorically refuting Donald Trump’s claim that the GCHQ assisted the President Obama to wiretap Donald Trump.


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17 March 2017

The Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, the Rt. Hon. Dominic Grieve QC MP, has today issued the following statement:

The Committee is aware of the allegations that the former President of the United States, Barack Obama, tasked GCHQ to ‘wire tap’ the now President of the United States, Donald Trump, during the 2016 US Presidential election.

First, I should make clear that the President of the United States is not able to task GCHQ to intercept an individual’s communications.

Second, long-standing agreements between the Five Eyes countries means that the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand cannot ask each other to target each other’s citizens or individuals that they cannot themselves target, or in any other way seek to circumvent their own or each other’s legal and policy obligations.

Third, an individual can only be the target of interception by GCHQ under a warrant signed by a Secretary of State. Such warrants can only authorise action where it is necessary and proportionate for a valid national security purpose. It is inconceivable that those legal requirements could be met in the circumstances described.<

I note GCHQ’s public denial of the potentially damaging allegations against them. This was an unusual step by the Agency, but it clearly indicates the strength of feeling about this issue, and I echo that sentiment.

http://isc.independent.gov.uk/news-archive/17march2017


So this makes it approximately everyone denying Trump’s accusations have any basis, and Trump has come up with approximately no evidence to support his accusations.