Bercow's future as Speaker of the House under fire following criticism in inquiry at House of Commons

Results of the inquiry into an alleged culture of bullying and harassment in the House of Commons were published on Monday and the report heavily criticises senior management, including MP for Buckingham and Speaker of the House, John Bercow.

Tuesday, 16th October 2018, 6:04 pm
Updated Friday, 19th October 2018, 1:20 pm
John Bercow, MP for Buckingham and Speaker of the House

A spokesperson for the office of Mr Bercow said:

“This is a serious report into a serious subject which deserves a serious response. The House of Commons Commission will meet as a matter of urgency in the coming days to consider the report and our response to it.”

We have previously reported that the MP for Buckingham has been accused of bullying two members of his staff and exhibiting other inappropriate behaviour including making sexist remarks.

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A committee decided behind closed doors that he would not be investigated but a wider inquiry into an alleged culture of bullying was announced by the House of Commons Commission on 19 March 2018.

While there has been much speculation this week over his future after the release of the report, a spokesperson from the Speaker’s Office told this paper:

“The Speaker has made no announcement about his leaving date. In the event he has anything to say on his future plans, he will make an announcement to the House first.”

In June this year Mr Bercow announced that he intended to stay in the role for another four years despite having previously said that he would stand down this year.

Dame Laura Cox’s report strongly suggests that the significant changes necessary cannot occur while the current senior management remains in place.

It read:

“The inescapable conclusion from the views expressed during this inquiry is that it will be extremely difficult to build confidence that there will be fundamental change when the levers of change are regarded as part of the change that is needed.”

Dame Laura was contacted by over 200 people and many more indirectly. 68% of the people who contributed were women.

The report summarised:

“Abusive conduct of this kind is pervasive and no workplace is immune, but the culture in which it has been able to take hold in the Commons and the ineffective mechanisms for dealing with it make this a particularly serious case.”

Consequently, the report also recommends a change in the grievance process, allowing for historic cases to be investigated, which would include the allegations made against the Speaker.

Tradition dictates that no major party stands against the Speaker, so if Mr Bercow was to stand down as MP the subsequent by-election in Buckingham would afford the constituency the chance to field candidates from the major political parties for the first time since 2005.

Mr Bercow also stated on Tuesday:

“I firmly believe that the only possible way to resolve this matter is the establishment of a body which is both entirely independent of, and external to, Parliament to hear and adjudicate on all allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct – including deciding how far to investigate past misconduct.”