THEY can say what they want about him and usually it’s accompanied by curses. But even the most Brexitest of Brexiteers have to admit that John Bercow is the master of the arcane rules and procedures of the House of Commons.

The Speaker’s decision to rule out a third meaningful vote unless the Government changes its approach to promoting Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal seems to most of us to be plain common sense since nothing appears to have changed from the last two motions.

By invoking the so-called 1604 rule, Bercow has thrown down the gauntlet to Theresa May and her Government. The only way forward for them is to either change the standing orders of the Commons – they do not have the majority for that - or end the Parliamentary session by calling a general election.

More likely they will bring forward changes to the motion of last week and argue it’s new, which it won’t be.

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The 1604 rule is a convention set out in Erskine May, the Highway Code of Parliament, that no motion can be put by the Government to the Commons twice in the same parliamentary session if the wording is exactly or substantially the same.

It gets the name 1604 rule because that was the first time it was issued by the then Speaker, Sir Edward Phelips, on April 2 that year. Phelips was a most interesting character known for his hatred of Roman Catholics – he was thought to be one of Guy Fawkes’s main targets in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.

The possibility of the 1604 rule being invoked was openly discussed in both Westminster and the European Parliament.

Labour’s Angela Eagle actually raised the possibility of such a Speaker’s ruling last week without referring to the actual rule. Bercow replied: “A ruling will be made about that matter at the appropriate time. I’m grateful to the right honourable lady for reminding me a ruling might be required.”

The 1604 rule to stop a second motion was last used by a Speaker in 1920. Bercow reported to the House that the 1604 rule had been used 12 times in the years before 1920, and not since then.

In 1920, James Lowther, later Viscount Ullswater, was the Speaker who cited it back then, and he was also the Speaker who famously defined the three golden rules for MPs speaking the House: “Stand Up. Speak Up. Shut Up.”

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The 1604 rule is defined on page 397 of Erskine May: “A motion or an amendment which is the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.”

It continues: “Whether the second motion is substantively the same as the first is a matter for the chair.”

That seems to be that, then, unless the Government complies, and in a way it serves Theresa May right after her threat to invoke Henry VIII powers to push through Brexit. Remember those? Powers brought in by an English king in 1539 to allow Government by decree and to by-pass Parliamentary procedures?

Here's a query to all Scots: isn’t it just grand that English rules made a century and more before the Act of Union are being used to determine Scotland’s future?