05 June 2013

Speaker criticised for UK immigration comments

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Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has been criticised for his comments on UK immigration policy during a visit to Romania.

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Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has been criticised for his comments on UK immigration.

The Speaker of the House of Commons is supposed to maintain political neutrality as an integral part of their post but Mr Bercow has found himself criticised from several different corners for making seemingly partisan comments on one of Britain’s most divisive issues: UK immigration.

During a visit to Romania Mr Bercow praised the impact migrants have had on British society particularly their work ethic, something which hasn't 'always been seen' in the domestic workforce.

"I believe things should be controlled and monitored when it comes to migration, any state that wants to protect its own people should do this, but there are also great advantages," Mr Bercow said.

"I want to underline the fact that there has been an important wave of immigrants that came to Great Britain from new member states and in many cases they came with aptitudes and a commitment, an involvement we haven’t always seen in our labour force."

The speaker went on to say the rhetoric used by British media regarding immigration did not necessarily reflect public opinion or Government policies and intentions, going so far as to accuse some journalists of 'negative and discriminatory' reporting of the issue.

"A free media is a vital part of a democracy," he added, "but the media is not the Government and it is not Parliament."

Romania and Bulgaria will gain full access to the European Union and its Freedom of Movement directive at the end of the year and concerns are high in Britain that an influx of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants could over burden the already strained public services.

Mr Bercow said he was in Romania 'as a friend and someone who sees the benefits of immigration' but his comments have not been appreciated in some corners, especially given his position of neutrality.

Conservative MP Rob Wilson said the speaker's ability to properly arbitrate sensitive political issues could be called into question when he expressed an opinion on current issues.

"Immigration is an incredibly important and sensitive matter that generates very strong opinions," said Mr Wilson. "The Speaker needs not only to be neutral in his handling of debates on the issue, but he needs to be seen to be neutral.

"It would be a dangerous precedent if a speaker were to start airing their views too freely on a subject like this."

However, the strongest condemnation came from UK Independence Party Leader Nigel Farage - a staunch opponent of British membership of the EU - who said Mr Bercow was 'a disgrace to the office of Speaker'.

"It is outrageous that Mr Bercow is happy to overthrow the wisdom of ages and think it acceptable to comment on matters that are both highly political and deeply contentious. He is a disgrace to the office of Speaker," Mr Farage said.

"There are very good practical and constitutional reasons why the Speaker is neutral, reasons that he obviously believes are being his own august self image."


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