Lord Speaker makes statement to the House of Lords

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, in the House of Lords chamber.
07 February 2017

The Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, made a statement to the House of Lords on 7 February 2017. The text is below.

'My Lords, I would like to make a short statement following the statement in the House of Commons by the Speaker there on a possible speech to Parliament by the President of the United States.'

'The procedure by which permission is given to speak in Parliament is long established. When the Speakers receive a request to invite a head of state to address Parliament, they both have to agree to issue an invitation, after consultation. The whole purpose is to seek consensus ensuring that both Houses have the opportunity to consider a request.'

'Yesterday in the Commons Mr Bercow said that he was opposed to the President speaking. I should make it clear that I was not consulted on that decision or its timing. However, the Speaker contacted me this morning. He told me that while he maintained his view on the issue he was genuinely sorry for failing to consult with me. Obviously I accepted that apology.'

'My view is that I will keep an open mind and consider any request for Mr Trump to address Parliament if and when it is made.'

'I do not intend to argue the case for or against Mr Trump’s visit – that is not my role as Speaker. But allow me to say that I have spent the last 30 years campaigning against prejudice and discrimination, particularly for the rights of LGBT people and those with HIV/Aids. I would however like to make two further comments entirely on process. I stress that.'

'First, there will be other leaders coming to this country who may also be controversial. The procedure as it stands means that either Mr Speaker or myself can effectively veto any proposal for a visiting leader to address Parliament at least as far as Westminster Hall is concerned. I think it is for Parliament to consider whether there is a better way in which such decisions can be made.'

'Second, for the time being there may be a situation where one of the Speakers decides he cannot agree. Before we reach this point there should be, at the very least, some effort to reach consensus and a serious discussion on what the decision should be. I hope that we can now return to that previous practice.'

Further information

Image: House of Lords 2016 / Photography by Annabel Moeller

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