First, let me say that I fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue, evidenced by the number of signatures to the petition on the Parliament website and the volume of correspondence I have received. I was pleased to hear that a debate in Parliament has now been scheduled on 20 February on this issue.
Of course, this country's alliance with the United States is vitally important. On defence, intelligence and security we work more closely together than any other two countries in the world.
Therefore, I think it is right that the incoming President of our closest and most important ally should be accorded the honour of a State Visit just like other Presidents before him. The Government supports this approach and the invitation has been extended by Her Majesty the Queen, quite properly. It is right that the visit should go ahead.
It is very important to say, however, that where we have differences with the US, we should not hesitate to voice them, and I am pleased that so many members of Parliament were in the House of Commons to express their views during the extensive debate on the changes to US immigration policy on 30 January. We have also of course heard some rather controversial comments from the Speaker John Bercow about not wishing the President to be allowed to speak in Westminster Hall.
Whatever individual views about comments by President Trump, and I have found many of them completely unpalatable, it is not for the Speaker to impose his own views in this way and in any case without any reference to MPs and I regret that he has done so. As the Chairman of the Parliamentary Tibet Society I had major objections to the stance of the Chinese President when he was invited on a State visit and spoke in Parliament but I registered my views and boycotted his speech. Apparently I am not to be given that opportunity with Donald Trump if the Speaker gets his way.
Ultimately if we are ‘to speak truth unto power’ as the saying goes then it is vital that we have the ear of that power and it is right that the Prime Minister has established a close link through which I hope we stand a better chance of influencing American policy in important and controversial areas.