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The Commons speaker, John Bercow, has been asked by the prime minister to put Boris Johnson on the record about whether he is in charge of Brexit negotiations in the home office, rather than having to rely on officials.
Bercow has written to the foreign secretary in a letter seen by the Observer, following Johnson’s assertion during a debate on Brexit on Friday that he “runs the home office” for the UK and “runs Brexit from the back of the bus”.
The Speaker is calling on Johnson to confirm, under parliamentary privilege, that he is in control.
In the letter, Bercow said: “In light of your repeated assertions to the effect that you ‘run the UK’s ‘home office’, ‘run Brexit from the back of the bus’ and ‘run a proper, professional, evidence-based government’, it would be appropriate to ask you to state your position in writing, under parliamentary privilege, as to whether you are in fact, as you have suggested, ‘running the UK’s ‘home office’, ‘running Brexit from the back of the bus’ and ‘running government from the back of the bus’.”
Bercow pointed out that since he became Speaker in 2009, five question notices on Johnson have been moved without any amendment.
The prime minister, Theresa May, who was criticised for failing to defend Johnson at Friday’s debate, has said he should clarify his comments.
Johnson and Bercow have appeared to come to loggerheads repeatedly over Brexit, from the Brexit secretary, David Davis, suggesting in November that he could call the shots if Johnson was in charge, to comments made by May in February saying Bercow’s impartiality was compromised over Brexit.
May’s office confirmed Bercow had been in touch with her office about the discussions.
The Observer asked Johnson for a response to Bercow’s letter but he did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday.