A Government report into bullying and harassment at the House of Commons has concluded there is a culture of abusive conduct that is particularly serious and recommends a change in senior management, including Speaker of the House of Commons and Buckingham MP John Bercow.
A Government report into bullying and harassment at the House of Commons has concluded there is a culture of abusive conduct that is particularly serious and recommends that senior management, including Speaker of the House of Commons and Buckingham MP John Bercow, should step down.
Dame Laura Cox compiled the report following a number of allegations involving MPs and Commons leaders - including Mr Bercow. In his role as Speaker, Mr Bercow is responsible for the safety of MPs and staff.
In response to the latest report a spokesperson for the Office of John 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."
This newspaper has previously reported that Mr Bercow was accused of bullying two members of his staff. A committee decided behind closed doors that historic cases could 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.
Dame Laura’s report, which is the result of that inquiry, questioned how the significant changes necessary could occur with the current senior management, which includes the Speaker's Office, remaining in place. The report reads:
“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 Cox was contacted directly by over 200 people but many more contributed via Workplace Equality Networks and trade unions, meaning the total number was considerably higher. 68% of the people who contributed to the report, either directly or indirectly, 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.
“The nature and extent of the allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, made against other members of House staff as well as against some Members of Parliament, are disturbing, and the effects of such misconduct have been exacerbated by the inadequate procedures in place to tackle them.”
A Parliamentary statement read:
“Dame Laura Cox’s report makes difficult reading for all of us. Bullying and harassment have no place in the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Digital Service. We fully accept the need for change and, as a leadership team, are determined to learn lessons from the report. We apologise for past failings and are committed to changing our culture for the better.
“As Dame Laura recognises, this will not be achieved overnight. We have already begun the process. There was an additional meeting of the Commons Executive Board earlier today and the House of Commons Commission will meet on Monday 22 October specifically to consider the report’s findings and identify next steps.
“We are grateful to Dame Laura and to everyone who contributed to the Inquiry. This report will help ensure that positive change takes place.”