- Senior MPs are considering calling Lord Cameron before the Bar of the House
Senior MPs are considering invoking the historic procedure of calling Lord Cameron before the Bar of the House to ensure that he is fully accountable to the elected Commons.
The extraordinary move was mooted amid fury from many MPs that he would otherwise answer only to the unelected House of Lords – not the Commons.
Embarrassingly for the former Prime Minister, summoning someone to the Bar of the House – a white line which marks the formal boundary of the Commons chamber which non-MPs cannot cross – has been deployed to issue reprimands.
It was last used in 1957 when newspaper editor Sir John Junor was forced to apologise for publishing an article suggesting that MPs were getting more than their fair of petrol during rationing.
However, last night, The Mail on Sunday was told that such was the anger that the Foreign Secretary would carry out his crucial Cabinet job from the Lords that the rarely-used measure could be invoked.
David Cameron could face the humiliation of being summoned to stand before MPs in the Commons chamber to answer questions as the new Foreign Secretary
Senior MPs are considering invoking the historic procedure of calling Lord Cameron before the Bar of the House to ensure that he is fully accountable to the elected Commons
The plan emerged amid claims that Foreign Office Minister and Tory MP Andrew Mitchell, the next most senior Minister in the department, had demanded the formal title of Deputy Foreign Secretary as he will deputise for Lord Cameron in the Commons.
A source said: ‘Everyone is calling him DFS, not after the sofa store but for Deputy Foreign Secretary.’
Mr Mitchell denied that, saying: ‘I have not asked that – it was the BBC which referred to me as that. I made clear in the Commons that I have been asked to speak for the Foreign Secretary there.’
Many MPs were livid at Rishi Sunak’s surprise decision last week to recall the ex-PM, who left the Commons in 2016, to serve as Foreign Secretary by giving him a seat in the Lords.
Within hours of the appointment, the Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs that he had ‘commissioned advice from the Clerks about possible options’ to make sure the Foreign Secretary was accountable to the Commons.
And last night, a senior MP close to the Commons’ Procedure Committee – which is now expected to look into the issue – said using the power to summon Lord Cameron could be the answer.
The issue of requiring peers who were Ministers to come to the Commons was last considered when ex-Labour MP Peter Mandelson entered the Lords in 2008 and given key Cabinet jobs by Gordon Brown.
The senior MP added: ‘Anyone can be called before the Bar of the House – it’s quite possible that will be a recommendation to deal with this new situation.’
Other measures being considered are understood to be the less drastic option of changing Commons rules to allow Lord Cameron to speak from the Dispatch Box or simply question him in the Westminster Hall venue shared by the Lords and Commons.
It is understood that as a peer, he could technically reject a Commons summons but MPs said it would be a ‘terrible look’ if he did so.
Last night, insiders said that he was already aware of the threat of a summons and was dreading it, with oneally saying he would look ‘like the accused in the dock’.
However, Tory MP and former Commons Leader Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg said that to avoid the former PM having to stand, ‘we might offer him a chair to make it a little more comfortable’.
Sir Jacob also stressed that there was precedent in the 19th Century for a peer to give evidence from the Bar of the Commons chamber.
The Foreign Office stressed that Mr Mitchell had already promised to ‘follow the precedent’ set by previous Governments and deputise for Lord Cameron in the Commons.