Commons Speaker to tell gay groups about lobbying
Fri, 1 Apr 2011
The Speaker of the House of Commons is controversially set to tell dozens of homosexual groups how they can “influence Parliament”.
John Bercow, who was recently named Politician of the Year by a homosexual campaign group, is due to speak at the Influencing Parliament for LGB&T Communities event in Manchester next week.
The move risks damaging the Speaker’s role as an impartial presiding officer. And the decision is likely to alarm those who feel that homosexual rights already ride roughshod over the rights of other members of the community.
Next week’s one day event is set to be attended by representatives from more than 40 homosexual organisations, and according to the promotional flyer it will teach “how LGB&T groups and communities can effectively engage with Parliament”.
The afternoon features a talk and a question and answer session with Mr Bercow.
Paul Martin, Chief Executive of the Lesbian & Gay Foundation said he was “delighted” by the Speakers controversial visit.
He claimed: “At the moment LGB&T people are under-represented in UK Parliament and politics, and we sincerely hope that this event will inspire LGB&T people to take a more active role in politics.
“Of course, we are delighted to welcome John Bercow MP to Manchester, he brings with him a wealth of experience in both Parliament and politics.”
The event has been organised by Voluntary Sector North West, the Lesbian & Gay Foundation and Parliamentary Outreach.
Earlier this year Mr Bercow gave his backing to the creation of a multi-faith chaplaincy for the House of Commons.
However, critics questioned the need for it and branded the proposal as an “exercise in politically-correct box ticking”.
Last summer it emerged that Mr Bercow had controversially rejected the Dean of Westminster’s choice for the role of Commons Chaplain, preferring to appoint an inner-city female vicar.
When campaigning for the role of Speaker Mr Bercow said he was proud of his record on pushing for equality on gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation. He made no mention of religion.
In 2009, before he was elected Speaker, he branded a free speech safeguard in a sexual orientation ‘hate speech’ law as “at best superfluous, and at worst deeply objectionable”.
In 2008 he tabled an amendment which could have jailed pro-lifers who advertise alternatives to abortion. He also signed an amendment to extend the current British abortion law to Northern Ireland. Neither amendment became law.
In 2006 he advocated that ten per cent of Commissioner posts on the powerful Equality and Human Rights Commission be reserved and guaranteed for homosexuals.
But he thinks Bishops should lose the right to sit in the House of Lords. In 2007 he said: “there is no case to be made for reserved, ex officio, guaranteed religious representation in the second Chamber. The argument simply does not hold water.”
In a 2004 debate on transsexual rights, Edward Leigh MP asked Mr Bercow if he was “really saying that when we are dealing with people who have particularly strong moral or religious views we should override those views not in society as a whole, but in their own private meetings and in their own church?”
The official record shows that Mr Bercow indicated assent.
He has pressed the Government on a number of occasions to consider the legalisation of cannabis.