Stand-off between Speaker Bercow and Commons Leader Leadsom

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Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has been accused of a “serious affront” to the Commons after a stand-off with the Speaker during discussions on the meaningful vote.

Veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman was outraged by Ms Leadsom continuing a private chat as MPs sought clarity on procedure from the Speaker.

Mr Sheerman accused Ms Leadsom of behaving rudely and then “flouncing out”.

He said: “In all my time here I have never seen a Leader of the House act with such disrespect and then flounce out of the Chamber, and her officials follow out in that way, showing their dislike for something an MP had just said.

“That was far more serious than a bit of fun with a football the other night.

“It was a serious affront to this House, not to you Mr Speaker.”

The stand-off happened after SNP shadow Commons leader Pete Wishart raised a point of order about whether or not the Government would be able to force MPs into a “take it or leave it” vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

Mr Bercow explained the issue was “in progress” as the Government had yet to decide, but Ms Leadsom continued to chat to colleagues.

Losing patience, Speaker Bercow stopped to wait for Ms Leadsom to finish her chat before asking her directly to respect the House as she continued to turn her back to him.

He said: “Can I just ask the Leader of the House if she would do me the courtesy of listening when I respond to the point of order, as I did her the courtesy of listening to her responses to the business questions.”

Ms Leadsom turned to him and smiled but, as Speaker Bercow continued, turned away again, to shouts of anger from the Labour benches.

Labour MP John Speller raised a point of order accusing Ms Leadsom of disrespect to the Commons during an “enormously important matter of procedure”.

Mr Spellar said she had “indulged consistently in a conversation and has now scuttled out”.

“My shoulders are broad,” Speaker Bercow responded.  “There is an issue of courtesy to the House but I don’t think any deliberate discourtesy was intended.”

Labour’s Christian Matheson also complained of Government officials “smirking and shaking their heads” as Mr Spellar spoke, which he said was “utterly unacceptable”.

After Mr Sheerman also accused Ms Leadsom of disrespecting the House, Speaker Bercow sought to calm MPs.

He said: “My desire would be to lower the temperature and give opportunities for colleagues to reflect.

“I’m very sorry that in his long experience he has not witnessed anything of the kind that he has just seen.

“My concern is that a proper procedure should be followed in respect of the upcoming matter, perhaps the most serious matter to be brought to this House in half a century.

“This matter must be dealt with in a manner that suits the House rather than one particular opinion represented in the House.”

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