Tory MP Andrew Bridgen accused Mr Bercow of “defending the indefensible” to the “fag end” of his tenure as MPs debated a report to suspend Labour’s Keith Vaz.
Mr Vaz was suspended from the Commons for six months after the debate after he was found to have “expressed willingness” to purchase cocaine for male prostitutes by the Standards Committee.
Mr Bridgen argued the Speaker should have acted sooner to investigate the allegations against Mr Vaz, citing Mr Bercow’s “very close relationship” with the MP for Leicester East as a possible reason for the delay.
The Speaker interrupted Mr Bridgen and at length informed him about how these were not matters for the chair to get involved in given the other procedures in place.
But Mr Bridgen said the Speaker had misunderstood his point and in fact he was going to “extol” his decision not to get involved.
As he tried to raise other concerns connected to Mr Vaz, the Speaker again intervened and starkly warned Mr Bridgen to conclude his remarks.
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In their final exchange, Mr Bridgen told the Commons: “It’s clear to me and it will be clear to the public that to the fag end of your tenure in that chair you are defending the indefensible and your very close relationship with (Mr Vaz) – the House can come to its own conclusions, the Standards Committee has come to its own conclusions and, Mr Speaker, the public will come to theirs.”
Mr Bercow said he was sure the public would come to their own conclusions, adding: “He can try to smear me, he will get the square root of nowhere.”
The Speaker added he was “friendly” with Mr Vaz as well as Conservative former ministers Sir Christopher Chope and Sir David Lidington, before naming other MPs from different parties.
He added: “I am friendly with a great many members having served in this place for 22 years, I do not get involved in matters appertaining to standards, there is a machinery for deliberation on those matters in the form of a parliamentary standards commissioner and a committee.”
“They deal with those matters.”
Mr Bercow said Mr Bridgen had appeared to contradict himself within minutes, adding: “I’m not trying to defend the conduct of (Mr Vaz).
“What I’m doing on behalf of and in support of this House is defending colleagues, members of the public, the integrity of an independent process.
“If (Mr Bridgen) can’t or won’t grasp that fact, with the very greatest of respect to him or such respect as I can muster, that says more about him than it does about me.”
The tense exchanges came after MPs had spent almost three hours paying tribute to the Speaker as he prepared to stand down after 10 years in the chair.