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John Bercow relaxes Commons dress code and tells male MPs ties are not 'essential'

3 min read

John Bercow has told male MPs that they are no longer required to wear ties in the House of Commons. 

The Speaker’s admission that he does not deem neckwear “essential” for partaking in Commons business comes the day after Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake went tieless for his question to Theresa May.

Female MPs are already exempt from the convention, and Mr Bercow said that he was relaxed about male MPs’ clothing decisions – as long as they were “business-like”.

Conservative MP Peter Bone had raised a point of order with the Speaker over Mr Brake’s clothing yesterday.

He asked: “I’m not really one to talk about dress sense, but I noticed yesterday, sir, that a member was allowed to ask a question in the chamber without wearing a tie. Now, I have no particular view on that but have the rules on that changed, sir?”

At which point his Conservative colleague Anna Soubry heckled him by noting female MPs had been tie-free for some decades.

Mr Bercow replied: “The general expectation is that Members should dress in business-like attire.

“So far as the chair is concerned, I must say to the Honourable Gentleman – and I fear this will gravely disquiet him – it seems to me that as long as a Member arrives in the House in what might be thought to be business-like attire, the question of whether that Member is wearing a tie is not absolutely front-and-centre stage.

“So am I minded not to call a Member simply because that Member is not wearing a tie? No. I think there has always been some discretion for the chair to decide what is seemly and proper, and Members shouldn’t behave in a way that is disrespectful of their colleagues or of the institution. But do I think it’s essential that a Member wears a tie? No.

He added to Ms Soubry: “There is absolutely no obligation on female members not to wear ties, if they so choose.”

Mr Bercow also remarked upon Mr Bone’s fashion choices, in a possible reference to the time he tried unsuccessfully to present then-prime minister David Cameron with a green-and-black Grassroots Out tie in the chamber.

“Opinions on the Honourable Member’s choice of ties do tend to vary – and it has to be said the same could be said of my own,” the Speaker said.

Mr Bone's selection of headwear has also been the subject of comment by Mr Bercow in the past. 

The Speaker’s Office has also confirmed that ties will not be required for male journalists to sit in the press gallery. 

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