POLITICS

Donald Trump Should Be Banned From Addressing Parliament During State Visit, Say MPs

31/01/2017 12:00 GMT | Updated 31/01/2017 16:15 GMT
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Donald Trump could be barred from making a speech to Parliament amid a growing revolt by MPs over his planned State visit to the United Kingdom.

More than 70 MPs have signed a parliamentary Early Day Motion which “deplores” the US President’s decision to impose a travel ban on seven majority-Muslim countries.

The motion, tabled by Labour’s Stephen Doughty, also condemns Trump’s views on women and torture and declares he should be denied the historic “honour” of addressing both Houses of Parliament.

Theresa May has insisted that the invitation to Trump to meet the Queen still stands - despite over 1.5 million members of the public calling for the trip to be scrapped.

But with the trip likely to go ahead, critics have decided to target its itinerary instead and want to refuse permission to address peers and MPs in the 11th-century Westminster Hall.

Only a select few world statesmen and women, including President Obama and Nelson Mandela, have been granted permission to speak to the Commons and the Lords in the oldest part of Parliament. 

Amid signs of a growing discontent among Tory MPs and even ministers, Downing Street on Tuesday insisted that the idea of addressing MPs and peers had not yet been settled.

As The Huffington Post UK reported yesterday, Commons Speaker John Bercow is one of just three people who could refuse Trump the right to speak in Westminster Hall.

However the early day motion, signed by shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and senior SNP MP Angus McNeil, demands that the President should not be allowed to speak in the Palace of Westminster at all.

The motion reads:

That this House deplores recent actions taken by US President Donald J Trump, including his Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees, and notably his comments on torture and women; notes the historical significance and honour that comes with an invitation to address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster; and calls on the Speaker, Lord Speaker, Black Rod and Serjeant at Arms to withhold permission from the Government for an address to be made in Westminster Hall, or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, by President Trump.

Asked directly if the PM believed that Trump should not be allowed to address Parliament, her official spokeswoman stressed that details of the trip had not been finalised.

“On the programme for the State visit, that will all need to be worked out in due course, the elements of that, and to look at it all, it is months away. There will be discussions for that,” she said.

Veteran Labour MP David Winnick warned on Monday: “If indeed the visit of this wretched, bigoted man is going to take place, can we be reassured that under no circumstances will he address Parliament in Westminster Hall? That, in itself, would be a disgrace.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s reply, like that of Downing Street, suggested a Trump could be denied the honour even if the trip went ahed.

“I am sure that the mood of the Chamber of the House of Commons will be reflected in all discussions about how the visit is to go ahead,” he said.

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A former head of the Foreign Office warned the Prime Minister’s decision to invite Trump so swiftly after his inauguration had put the Queen in a “very difficult position”.

Lord Ricketts, who was permanent secretary at the Foreign Office from 2006-10 before becoming David Cameron’s national security adviser, said the offer so early in Trump’s presidency was “premature”.

In a letter to The Times, he said it was unprecedented for a US president to be given a state visit in their first year in the White House and questioned whether Trump was “specially deserving of this exceptional honour”.

“It would have been far wiser to wait to see what sort of president he would turn out to be before advising the Queen to invite him. Now the Queen is put in a very difficult position.”

In response, the PM’s official spokeswoman said onTuesday: “I don’t think we accept or share that view”.

May is also under pressure to say whether she was briefed by Trump’s aides on his travel ban when she met the new president for the first time last week. 

Downing Street refused to be drawn on a report by Channel 4 News that she had been told refugees would be barred from travelling to the US, although officials were said not to have revealed much detail.

“You will have heard the Prime Minister and the president’s comments following their discussions and we are not going to go into details of a private meeting,” a No 10 spokesman said.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told MPs he was not prepared to comment on “confidential conversations” between the two leaders.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said it was “disgraceful” that May had appeared to know about the ban in advance but did nothing to prevent it.