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Thu, 1 October 2020

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Downing Street heaps pressure on John Bercow over bullying allegations

Downing Street heaps pressure on John Bercow over bullying allegations
3 min read

John Bercow's future as Commons Speaker is hanging in the balance after Downing Street suggested three different ways in which he could face an investigation into bullying allegations made against him.

Number 10 said a separate inquiry into bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff could be widened to look specifically at the claims by two of Mr Bercow's former parliamentary secretaries.

Angus Sinclair claimed he was subjected to a string of angry outbursts, swearing and mimicry while working for him, and was paid £86,250 when he quit in 2010 in a deal that required him to promise not to speak about his experiences.

Mr Bercow was previously alleged to have shouted at and undermined Mr Sinclair's successor as his private secretary, Kate Emms, eventually leading to her being signed off sick.

A spokesman for the Speaker has vehemently denied the accusation by both former staffers.

In the Commons today, Mr Bercow said: "I have a superb team of dedicated, effective and long-serving staff, five of whom have served me for a collective total of over 40 years. 

"I am also happy to confirm that the great majority of people who have left my service on perfectly amicable terms."

It emerged last month that an inquiry headed by Dame Laura Cox QC into claims of bullying by MPs would not look at historical cases.

But a spokesman for the Prime Minister said that probe was one of the ways in which the House of Commons could investigate the claims against the Speaker.

He said: "We've said it is a matter for the House. I think there are ways in which this could be done.

"I think the inquiry has obviously set out its terms of reference, but we suggest this is something the chair may wish to consider there."

The spokesman also suggested the House authorities could launch their own investigation, as could the parliamentary standards commissioner.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also heaped pressure on Mr Bercow.

She said: "It is for Dame Laura Cox QC to consider whether the terms of reference of her independent inquiry need to be expanded, to allow for individual investigations to take place. I’m sure she will be looking very carefully."

"We must call out unacceptable behaviour and stand by the House staff who do so much for us.

"I am determined to stamp out all forms of bullying and harassment in Parliament, and separate to these allegations, I encourage any member of House staff who has experienced mistreatment to provide their confidential testimony to Dame Laura Cox. 

"Everyone in Westminster has a responsibility to play their part in changing the culture in Parliament."

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: "These are extremely serious allegations. The detail of them need to be investigated."

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