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Wed, 27 May 2020

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MPs face fresh inquiry into 'outrageous' bullying and harassment of staff

MPs face fresh inquiry into 'outrageous' bullying and harassment of staff
3 min read

MPs will face a second inquiry into Parliament's culture of bullying and harassment, ministers have announced.

The fresh probe will look into historical allegations of misconduct by parliamentarians towards their staff, and comes after a searing report by Dame Laura Cox warned that harassment in Westminster had been "tolerated and concealed".

Announcing the inquiry, which will be led by a high-profile female lawyer, Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said: "I urge all those who have experienced bullying and harassment in any way to come forward to give evidence."

She added: "The fact that some of those in positions of power or authority have bullied, intimidated and harassed those who work alongside them and perpetuated a culture where that behaviour is not only tolerated but comes to be expected as the norm is outrageous."

An inquiry into past cases was a key recommendation of Dame Laura's report, which called for the new 'Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme' agreed by MPs last year to be beefed up to allow historical allegations to be considered.

It could also heap fresh pressure on Speaker John Bercow, who is facing calls to quit after the inquiry warned that the "necessary changes" might be impossible "under the current senior House administration".

The Speaker is meanwhile facing two claims, which he has denied, that he bullied his own staff members.

The announcement of a second inquiry came as MPs debated the findings of Dame Laura's report.

Labour's Jess Phillips told the House of Commons she had received "harrowing reports" from staff working in the Parliament, and urged MPs to avoid a "Jimmy Savile situation" where people turned a blind eye to abuse because "everybody knew he was a bit like that".

She added: "We need a place where Members of Parliament - in fact, members of staff, anybody who is around this place - can without prejudice log that somewhere so that we can show patterns."

Maria Miller, the Conservative MP who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee, said: "The problems run deeper than just the abuse itself, but the dismissive way in which allegations are handled has created a toxic lack of trust in senior management."

The ex-Cabinet minister, who has previously called for Mr Bercow to step down, repeated her criticism of the Speaker and said MPs needed "to make sure that there is senior management change in this place".

But fellow Tory backbencher Philip Davies accused those focusing on the Speaker of having "a personal vendetta" against Mr Bercow.

He warned that the debate over bullying should not be used as "an attempt to settle old scores".




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