It's Speaker versus 'Beaker' as Bercow blasts penny-pinching Treasury

  • Treasury Minister asked the speaker to make savings
  • Mr Bercow oversees budget of about £220 million
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow

Outburst: Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow clashed with Coalition's austerity drive in parliament

Speaker John Bercow has mounted an extraordinary revolt against the Coalition’s austerity drive after Treasury Ministers called on the Commons to share the pain.

Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander privately urged Mr Bercow to make fresh cuts to the cost of running Westminster.

But Mr Bercow slapped down Mr Alexander by making it clear that Ministers have no business interfering in how Parliament is run.

In his riposte, Mr Bercow reminded him of the ‘unique position of the House of Commons as the body that authorises all public expenditure’. But last night Liberal Democrat Mr Alexander said that he would make no apology for asking public bodies to tighten their belts.

Mr Alexander, nicknamed Beaker for his apparent resemblance to a character in The Muppets, also insisted he had made clear he was aware of the ‘unique budgeting arrangements’ of Parliament.

As chairman of the Commons Commission, Mr Bercow oversees an annual budget of about £220 million. Commons chiefs insist they have already been making deep cutbacks and will slash spending by 17 per cent by 2015.

But in a surprise approach to the Speaker, Mr Alexander asked him to make additional savings of one per cent over the next two years. However, Mr Bercow gave the request short shrift.

A source close to the Speaker said: ‘Mr Bercow was very polite but his message was crystal clear  – a Treasury Minister has no business telling MPs how much to spend on running the Commons.

‘We are the ones who watch what the Treasury is doing with public money, not the other way round.’

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander

Cutting costs: Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, asked Mr Bercow to make savings

And in a swipe at 40-year-old Mr Alexander’s relative youth, one senior MP said: ‘Master Alexander has over-reached himself here.

‘The separation of Parliament and executive is a time-honoured part of the British constitution and a senior Minister should know that.’ Last night, a spokesman for Mr Bercow confirmed the exchange.

He said: ‘The Chief Secretary wrote to the Speaker as chairman of the House of Commons Commission to ask whether the House could make additional savings of one per cent over the next two years.

‘In reply, the Speaker noted that the House was on track to reduce its budget by 2015 by 17 per cent.’

A spokesman for Mr Alexander said the Minister had referred to Parliament’s special budget status in his letter, adding: ‘Mr Alexander will not apologise for encouraging all bodies that spend taxpayers’ money to make their fair contribution to reducing the deficit.’