Sixth annual Bingham lecture, by the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons
“What Brexit has taught us (so far) about Parliament, Politics and the UK Constitution”
The Bingham lectures are the product of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, founded in 2010 to take forward the work of the Rt Hon Lord Bingham of Cornhill KG, one of (if not the) the country’s most pre-eminent jurists. I had the pleasure of listening to The Sixth Annual Bingham Lecture, delivered by The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons, at Middle Temple on the evening of 12th September.
This lecture has made many press headlines for Mr Bercow’s comments on Brexit and, whilst these are of course very newsworthy, his speech covered broader ground, highlighting not only the importance of the rule of law but also the resurgence of the House of Commons over recent years and the prospect of moves towards a codified constitution.
Having made clear that he will shortly resign the speakership, the timing of Mr Bercow’s talk ensured that the subject matter would receive particular attention – especially against the wider backdrop of legal and political events over recent months, pursuant to which the precise balance of power between our various branches of government has been tested. In this respect, it makes a good deal of sense to recall Lord Bingham’s views as to the importance of the judiciary in guaranteeing responsible government.
As to the revival of the House of Commons, Mr Bercow compared the current House to that of 20 and more years ago, when governments at that time enjoyed larger majorities. He referred to the increasing use and power of urgent questions and to the resurgence of the select committees. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the state of affairs which he has presided over of late, the Speaker said that he would favour a written constitution and that a codified document may have avoided recent constitutional wrangling.
All in all, Mr Bercow’s lecture was powerful and thoughtful one, in what can be described as very ‘interesting’ times.