WATCH: John Bercow forced to apologise after he 'insults' Tory MP Greg Hands

Posted On: 
26th March 2019

Furious Conservative MPs forced an apology from Speaker John Bercow after he hurled an "insult" at a former minister.

The Speaker has frequently clashed with ministers in recent months.

In heated Commons scenes, the Speaker said Greg Hands "wasn’t a very good whip" as he tried to admonish him for "disorderly" conduct.

The comment sparked angry cries of "withdraw" from the Tory benches - with Mr Bercow later apologising after MPs made their anger known.

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Mr Hands had attempted to make a Commons intervention as MPs sought clarity on Monday night's vote to hand more control of the Brexit process to Parliament.

But Mr Bercow shot back: "I don’t require any help from the right honourable gentleman, the member for Chelsea and Fulham. I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea where to start.

"He was once a whip, he wasn’t a very good whip. It’d be better if he kept quiet."

Raising a point of order, former Chief Whip Sir Patrick McLoughlin, told Mr Bercow: "A few weeks ago you sent out a message and a letter to all Members of Parliament asking them to treat each other with respect.

"Do you think your comments...reflected that?"

Ex-Foreign Office minister Sir Hugo Swire meanwhile accused the Speaker of "insulting" MPs.

"It may not cause you any great trouble but it causes us a certain degree of trouble," he said. "You, sir, have just congratulated (Conservative former minister Sir Oliver Letwin) for treating everybody with courtesy, and you, sir, are the invigilator of this place.

"And if you insult other Members of Parliament, we have no comeback."

The Speaker eventually apologised for the remark, saying: "If I have caused offence I very happily apologise. I have no difficulty with that."

He later heaped prais on Mr Hands, describing him as an "exceptionally capable" minister.

"I don’t doubt that," he added.

"I can’t comment on how good a whip he was beyond apologising for the offence I might have caused.

"He certainly was at the despatch box an immensely capable minister, I don’t dispute that for one moment."

Mr Bercow has frequently clashed with ministers in recent months over his interventions on Brexit, last week infuriating Downing Street by suggesting he could move to block a third vote on Theresa May's EU deal.