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British Parliament Speaker John Bercow urges India to encourage free speech

British Parliament Speaker John Bercow

London, April 21 (UiTV/IANS)- British Parliament Speaker John Bercow has said democracy thrives in pluralism and free speech is the cornerstone of a vibrant democracy.

Speaking to Asian Lite newspaper from London, the British speaker said he had welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the British parliament during his historic trip to London last November.

"It was an honour to welcome Prime Minister Modi to Parliament," Bercow said.

"Indian democracy is a vibrant rebuke to those who say that such freedoms are unachievable in large states. To rout the disbelievers completely, democracy has to demonstrate that it can respect free speech and incorporate a true diversity of creeds, faiths and orientations without diminishing or disrespecting any of them," he said.

Bercow also praised Britain's Asian community for their contributions to various sectors.

"The Asian community makes a huge contribution to British life, and I hope that its members will continue to build on its successes, both in terms of representation in Parliament and more widely across our national life," he added.

The speaker will be the chief guest of Asian Lite's anniversary celebrations in London on Wednesday. The newspaper is honouring seven British Indian icons for their contributions to business, culture, sport, media and community sectors. Bercow will deliver the key note speech on Democracy in the changed media landscape at an event in Bharatiya Vidhya Bhavan, London.

The speaker also urged more people from Britain's ethnic communities to come forward to become parliamentarians.

"The first BAME (Black, Asian Minority Ethnic) Member of Parliament was elected in 1841, but in spite of this promising start, it is a fact that headway has been slow in terms of achieving parity," Bercow said.

"It should be an urgent priority for political parties and Parliament alike to address this imbalance to ensure that we benefit from the greater diversity of elected representatives.

"To this end the Speaker's Conference on Parliamentary Representation committed, in 2010, to improving the diversity of Members of Parliament and, more recently, the Speaker's BAME Advisory Group is looking at innovative ways to encourage individuals from what we might term non-traditional backgrounds, to apply to work in the House of Commons."

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