London, Feb 7 House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has got embroiled in a controversy after insisting US President Donald Trump should not be allowed to address the lower house of parliament during his state visit.
Bercow’s extraordinary attack on late Monday reignited controversy over the invitation to Trump, provoking applause from MPs who oppose the US President, and drawing accusations that the Speaker was “insulting” Britian’s closest ally, the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday.
The Speaker appeared to brand Trump a “racist” as he said that the President’s travel ban on Muslims from seven countries, and refugees, had hardened his hostility to any high profile Westminster address during the visit, according to the report.
“I feel very strongly that our opposition to racism and to sexism and our support for equality before the law and an independent judiciary are hugely important considerations in the House of Commons,” Bercow told MPs as he said he would not wish to invite Trump to address them.
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson criticised the Speaker’s comments, telling BBC Newsnight: “That’s very disappointing, because if ever in recent years there’s been a more pro-British President of the US, it’s Donald Trump.”
“It’s been by his words, his assurances with Prime Minister May of 100% of standing with Nato, and working to create trade relationships. But, it’s also been symbolic. He was the one who returned Winston Churchill – the bust – to the Oval Office,” he said.
“I consider it too, sadly, a slap at the Republican Party. It was the leaders of our party that actually placed the bust of Winston Churchill in the US Capitol Building and we urge all persons to come visit our Capitol Building,” Wilson added.
Downing Street moved to reaffirm its backing for the visit, after the Speaker’s intervention, stating: “We look forward to welcoming the President to the UK later this year. The dates and arrangements for the state visit will be worked out in due course.”
Number 10 insisted it is too early in the process to say if Trump would be offered the honour of addressing MPs and peers in Westminster.
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the Speaker had “insulted” Trump.
The row erupted after Bercow said addressing Parliament was “not an automatic right, it is an earned honour” for foreign leaders.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn backed the Speaker. “Well said John Bercow. We must stand up for our country’s values. Trump’s State Visit should not go ahead,” he tweeted.
Former deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said it was a “proud moment for Commons. Racism and sexism not welcome here.”
The House of Lords Speaker, former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Fowler, was not consulted by Bercow and will be making his own statement on the issue to peers on Tuesday.
Chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt said: “He has no idea whether he will be speaking for a majority of the House of Commons, and this is why Speakers do not express their opinion.”