Peter Bone: Wellingborough Tory MP should be suspended over bullying and sexual misconduct, panel recommends
The Tory MP Peter Bone has been recommended for a six-week suspension from the House of Commons, after an independent panel found he committed violent bullying and sexual misconduct against a staff member.
Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) said the MP for Wellingborough “committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct” against a member of his staff in 2012 and 2013. Bone has denied the allegations, saying the claims are "false and untrue", and without foundation.
The complainant alleged that Bone had “repeatedly pressurised” the member of staff to give him a massage in the office and, on a visit to Madrid with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, indecently exposed himself to the complainant in the bathroom and bedroom of the hotel room they were sharing.
The six-week suspension, which has to be approved by MPs, could lead to the Conservative facing a recall petition that would pave the way for another possible by-election. Five allegations by a Westminster staffer were made in October 2021 to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), having had a complaint to then-prime minister Theresa May in 2017 unresolved, according to the IEP report.
In August 2022, the complainant withdrew the complaint to the Conservative Party, which had still not been resolved, so the ICGS could investigate. Following an investigation by an expert appointed by the ICGS, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld five allegations of bullying and one of sexual misconduct. Bone appealed the decision, however this was dismissed.
The IEP said: "This is a serious case of misconduct. [Bone] has been found to have committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct. The bullying involved violence, shouting and swearing, mocking, belittling and humiliating behaviour, and ostracism. It was often in front of others ... the respondent specifically targeted the complainant."
It continued: "This wilful pattern of bullying also included an unwanted incident of sexual misconduct, when the complainant was trapped in a room with the respondent in a hotel in Madrid, not knowing what was going to happen next. This was a deliberate and conscious abuse of power using a sexual mechanism: indecent exposure.
"It was woven into a pattern of inappropriate behaviour which also included requests for massages of his shoulders and neck and instructions to put hands in laps, including forcibly putting the complainant’s hands in his lap."
Writing on social media, Bone, who was appointed deputy leader of the House of Commons by Boris Johnson, said the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme investigation into him “was flawed, procedurally unfair and didn’t comply with its own rules and regulations”.
He added: "As I have maintained throughout these proceedings, none of the misconduct allegations against me ever took place. They are false and untrue claims. They are without foundation."
What were the allegations?
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld five allegations of bullying and one of sexual misconduct. The report said:
- Allegation 1: Bone “verbally belittled, ridiculed, abused and humiliated” the complainant, and this was bullying.
- Allegation 2: Bone “repeatedly physically struck and threw things at” the complainant, and this was bullying.
- Allegation 3: Bone “imposed an unwanted and humiliating ritual on” the complainant, namely instructing, or physically forcing, the complainant to put his hands in his lap when Bone was unhappy with him or his work; and this was bullying.
- Allegation 4.2: Bone “repeatedly pressurised [the complainant] to give him a massage in the office” and this was bullying, but not sexual misconduct.
- Allegation 4.3: Mr Bone indecently exposed himself to the complainant on an overseas trip, initially in the bathroom of the hotel room they were sharing and then in the bedroom. The Commissioner concluded this was sexual misconduct.
- Allegation 5: ostracised the complainant following the events subject to Allegation 4.3, and this was bullying.
What has Peter Bone said?
In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Bone said: “Today the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) has published a report finding me guilty of misconduct. As I have maintained throughout these proceedings, none of the misconduct allegations against me ever took place. They are false and untrue claims. They are without foundation.
“The allegations by an ex-employee refer to events of more than 10 years ago that spanned no more than a few months. The complainant first made the allegations years after they left my employment. They did not raise them at any time during their employment, either in writing or verbally with me, nor with their line managers.
“I am not permitted under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) process to fully respond to the allegations in public. Nor can I detail my views on the huge inconsistencies and lack of evidence in the allegations, or highlight areas that proved the allegations were factually false.
“However I can say that the allegations are the only allegations at all made against me throughout my work as an MP and beyond. Witness statements were submitted from ten employees (current and former) of the highest integrity, testifying to the professional, accommodating and friendly place my office is to work. Many others would be prepared to testify the same.
“I am also firmly of the opinion that on this occasion the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme investigation was flawed, procedurally unfair and didn’t comply with its own rules and regulations. It is my belief that they have operated outside of the powers given to them by Parliament and I am currently discussing with lawyers what action could and should be taken."
What is the Independent Expert Panel?
The Independent Expert Panel determines appeals and sanctions in cases where complaints have been brought against MPs of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. MPs agreed to establish the panel in June 2020, and the members are entirely independent.