Bercow in Commons Clerk 'PC' row

MP Simon Burns believes Speaker John Bercow may be bowing to political correctness by favouring a woman to succeed the Clerk of the House of Commons

MP Simon Burns believes Speaker John Bercow may be bowing to political correctness by favouring a woman to succeed the Clerk of the House of Commons

First published in National News © by

Conservative MPs are urging David Cameron to impose a "pause" before the appointment of a new Clerk of the House of Commons amid speculation that the post may go to a female high-flier headhunted from Australia.

Carol Mills, who currently runs the Department of Parliamentary Services in Canberra, is understood to have been one of a group of candidates interviewed for the £200,000-a-year post last week, alongside the current deputy clerk David Natzler.

No recommendation has yet been made to the Queen, who formally appoints the "chief executive" of the Commons, to replace Sir Robert Rogers following his retirement as Clerk.

But Tory MP Simon Burns said he suspected Speaker John Bercow favoured Ms Mills's candidacy for reasons of political correctness.

"Given that there was an in-house candidate who was eminently qualified to do the job, this is bizarre," Chelmsford West MP Mr Burns told the Mail on Sunday. " If this is Bercow's idea of political correctness - to have a woman - then it's absolutely staggering."

And fellow Conservative backbencher Rob Wilson told the newspaper: " Ms Mills undoubtedly has her merits and I have no reason to doubt she has performed her very different role as head of the staff of the Australian parliament in an exemplary way.

"But I know my colleagues are very concerned that the role of the Clerk of Commons, one of the most important and powerful officials in Parliament, should not be pushed through without the proper consultation and scrutiny of MPs.

"I believe the P rime Minister might wish to at least pause the process while the House of Commons isn't in session so that he can hear the views and concerns of MPs from across the House before fundamental and probably irreversible changes are made. 'It is important that any notable reform is made with the widest possible consent."

A spokeswoman for the Speaker's office confirmed that interviews of candidates to replace Sir Robert had now concluded. She pointed out that the name put forward to the Prime Minister will have been chosen by a recruitment panel, and not by Mr Bercow individually.

She added: "There's a very clear process when it comes to appointing a new Clerk. A recommendation is put to the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister then puts it to the Queen, and it is the Queen's appointment."

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