John Bercow: MPs could have power to recall parliament in emergencies

Posted On: 
11th October 2017

MPs could be granted the power to recall parliament from recess in an emergency situation, John Bercow has suggested.

John Bercow also proposed greater powers for MPs in the planning of Government timetabling
Credit: 
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The Commons speaker said such a mechanism could prompt the Government “to jump before it was pushed” if it thought MPs were about to engage it.

At the moment only the Government has the power to recall parliament when it is not sitting. The Commons has been recalled six times since 2009 – including after Labour MP Jo Cox was killed last year.

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But laying out his vision for parliamentary reform, Mr Bercow said a debate about changing the rules was “overdue”

“The House at the end of the day belongs to all of its members and not the minority of it who occupy ministerial office,” he said in a speech to the Hansard Society last night.

In an exclusive article for the House magazine, he added: “If such a reform were to be introduced, it would have to be thought through carefully in order that the mechanism cannot be exploited for partisan purposes rather than responding to a genuine urgent situation.

“However, it is not beyond the wit of man and woman to devise some sensible safeguards, perhaps requiring a cross-party threshold that any recall bid would be required to breach.”

Mr Bercow said the system might prompt ministers to recall parliament pre-emptively in the way they often prefer to make a statement rather than be dragged to the House for an urgent question.

He said it could “convince the government of the day to jump before it was pushed and bring the House back even in the depths of August with all the aggravation that this may entail”. 

Elsewhere, he said a House Business Committee to give MPs a greater say in the organisation of Government timetabling should be set up as “a matter of basic democratic principle”.

And he proposed reforms to the Private Members Bill system whereby MPs introduce their own legislation – most of which fails to become law.