Commons Speaker John Bercow ‘went against clerks’ advice on abortion last week’

Speaker John Bercow
Speaker John Bercow
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Commons Speaker John Bercow went against the advice of his clerks in allowing debate on amendments which are likely to see the legalisation of same-sex marriage and decriminalisation of abortion, two peers have said.

DUP peer Lord Morrow told Lords that “we know that the clerks in the other place had advised that the amendments were out of scope”.

Crossbench peer Baroness O’Loan similarly told the chamber that “the clerks in another place advised that these issues fell outside the remit of the bill”. She added: “Each of these amendments represents a huge issue which should be the subject of a bill in its own right, subject to prior consultation and then careful and measured consideration, with scope for amending the legislation. None of this has happened.”

However, NIO minister Lord Duncan said: “I stress that the amendments which have come from the other place are procedurally correct, and we must recognise them for what they are.”

Lord Morrow said that he believed that the entire bill should be pulled by the government because it “has been distorted beyond all recognition from its original purpose in a way that is wholly inappropriate” but if that did not happen, “we will be looking at a constitutional crisis the likes of which we have not seen in a very long time indeed”.

At another point in the debate, crossbench peer and veteran feminist Baroness Boycott said: “I find this debate really shocking ... I have campaigned for women’s rights all my life, and the one word I have not heard tonight is ‘kindness’.”

She added: “I am shocked to stand here listening to men ... if it were men in those shoes, things would be different. They are entitled to stay overnight and then go off and leave a woman with the consequences ... I am shaking as I listen to all this again. We have had this argument. This is a human right and human decency, and we should not stand in the way of the women of Northern Ireland, who deserve it.”