UK Politics

Tell MPs before Twitter, says Speaker John Bercow

John Bercow
Image caption John Bercow said it was "clear" Twitter was not the best way to reveal Commons plans

Speaker John Bercow has told the government not to make announcements about parliamentary business on Twitter before informing the House of Commons.

The warning comes after Chancellor George Osborne revealed on the social networking website that his Autumn Statement was being put back by a day because of a trade mission to China.

In the Commons, Labour asked Mr Bercow if this was "appropriate".

He replied that it would have been "courteous" to inform the House first.

The Autumn Statement, which had been scheduled for Wednesday 4 December, has been delayed until the next day because Prime Minister David Cameron is leading a trade delegation to the China and would not have been back in time.


Mr Osborne revealed the change on Twitter on Monday night, saying: "The PM is visiting China in early Dec to strengthen economic ties so I will deliver the Autumn Statement on Thurs 5th December."

Mr Cameron, during his annual address to the lord mayor's banquet in the City of London, said he wanted to open up markets for British companies while bringing more Chinese investment into the UK.

But shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle raised a point of order in the Commons, asking: "Aside from the spectacle of major announcements to this House being arbitrarily shifted around to avoid inconveniencing the Chinese Communist Party, is it appropriate that the chancellor announced this change on Twitter and not to this House?"

Mr Bercow replied: "The original date of the Autumn Statement was announced to the House at an earlier Business Questions, and I'm sure we are all extremely grateful for the long notice given.

"However, if something has been announced to the House about its future business, I would consider it courteous for the House to be informed formally of any change before the wider world is.

"A written statement would usually suffice, if there were not sufficient occasion or urgency to justify a supplementary business statement."

Commons Leader Andrew Lansley confirmed the change of date.

Mr Bercow said: "I hope you will have heard the statement from the chair, to put it very candidly and bluntly these announcements should be made to the House not by the mechanism of Twitter. I think it's pretty clear."

More on this story