John Bercow is claiming a pension of £35,000 a year from his time as Speaker of the House of Commons nine years early, despite having pledged to wait until he was 65.
Such so-called gold-plated pensions were reserved for the three highest positions in state — the Prime Minister, the Speaker, and the Lord Chancellor — who could claim half of their final salary as pension upon stepping down, regardless of the duration of their service or age. In reaction to the financial crisis, former Prime Minister David Cameron and former Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke turned down the pensions. But in 2012, Bercow only promised to wait until the then-minimum retirement age of 65. In 2013, those pensions were abolished.
However, Bercow, who admitted to having a “handmaiden role” in stopping a clean-break Brexit and called the UK’s independence from the EU “the biggest foreign policy mistake in the post-war period”, was reported to have started receiving the pension as soon as he retired in December 2019.
The former Speaker confirmed to the Daily Mail on Sunday that he had reneged on that pledge and took his retirement immediately, in part claiming his decision was inspired, as he alleged, by Boris Johnson’s government likewise breaking promises.
Mr Bercow, previously a member of the Conservative Party, told the newspaper: “Shortly before I left office, Sally [Mr Bercow’s wife] and I discussed the matter.
“She emphasised that the pension had always been part of my employment package and I should therefore take it, especially as, in her words, the Johnson Government was ‘’breaking conventions and promises left, right and centre’. I agreed with that sentiment and have been taking my Speaker pension, in line with my predecessors’ practice, since I retired.”
Had Bercow waited until 2028, he would have saved the taxpayer around £430,000.
What a shock! https://t.co/K0OYCGDJjY
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 20, 2021
Conservative MP David Jones criticised Bercow for having “made a solemn pledge to save taxpayers money”, adding: “Given how publicly he made that original promise, the least he should have done when he stepped down as Speaker announced that he was going back on his word.”
Likewise, Brexiteer Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said Bercow had “behaved disgracefully and sullied the reputation of Parliament as Speaker and now he’s behaving disgracefully as an ex-Speaker” — likely in reference to frequent accusations that the Speaker of the House of Commons, who in the UK Parliamentary system must remain impartial, had acted with a pro-Remain bias.
“Surely this latest insight into his deeply flawed character rules him out of ever being offered a peerage by any Government,” Mr Bridgen said.
The Tory MP’s remarks are in relation to Boris Johnson’s government breaking a 230-year-old precedent by denying a former Speaker a peerage in the House of Lords.
Labour’s former leader Jeremy Corbyn, however, had recommended Bercow, but his nomination was nevertheless rejected.
Last month, Bercow finally defected to the Labour Party, which from since during the 2016 referendum campaign up to the December 2019 General Election was opposed to Brexit.
While Bercow claimed he did so because his “values are left of centre”, and he does not “identify with the Conservative Party”, others, including Mr Bridgen and Reform UK party leader Richard Tice, said it was part of a cynical ploy to have Labour eventually nominate him to the House of Commons — an accusation Bercow denied.
Days later, and according to sources speaking to The Times, Labour had decided that it would not be putting Bercow forward for a peerage.
Officials Claim ‘Establishment Stitch-up’ Saved ‘Bully’ Bercow https://t.co/YHcC96y2pc
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) October 29, 2019
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