Blow for John Bercow as three Tory MPs quit committee over Westminster bullying revelations

Posted On: 
23rd October 2018

Commons speaker John Bercow suffered a major blow today as three Tory MPs quit a parliamentary committee in protest at his continued chairmanship.

Commons speaker John Bercow has faced calls to quit
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Will Quince, Mims Davies and Anne Milton resigned the Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion in the wake of a damning report into bullying and harassment at Westminster.

An inquiry by Dame Laura Cox - set up in the wake of the bullying scandal last year - found bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in parliament had been “tolerated and concealed”.

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It suggested Mr Bercow and a host of other senior parliamentary officials should quit their roles to help usher in a new workplace culture at the Palace of Westminster.

Mr Bercow has so far refused to stand down - but the three MPs piled pressure on him today when they unexpectedly walked out of the obscure Commons committee aimed at increasing representation in Parliament.

Mr Quince - who serves as a private secretary to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson - said in a statement: “I cannot in good conscience remain as a member of the Group while John Bercow is Chair.

“As much as I personally like John, I have reluctantly reached the conclusion that he not the right person to resolve the numerous and serious issues raised.”

Ms Davies told PoliticsHome: “I personally have made this decision of leaving a key committee which had a focus and ambition that I strongly believed in and reflected my views on wishing to make public life more positive and inclusive.

“I felt that remaining on this currently did not sit right following Dame Laura Cox’s report, and as this committee is chaired by the Speaker, I sadly felt in a difficult position. I did not take this decision lightly.”

A spokesperson for the Speaker said: “It is with great regret, the Speaker has accepted the resignations of three members of the Commons Reference Group, which was set up to make Parliament a more comfortable and welcoming place for women and other under-represented groups.

“The speaker would like to put it on record his thanks to the contributions made by Mims Davies, Will Quince and Anne Milton, who have been stellar members of our group.”

The spokesperson added that Mr Bercow would “consider the future of the reference group” after the House of Commons Commission meets to discuss the Cox report tomorrow.

The parliamentary bullying and harassment scandal emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations that dominated public debate in late in 2017.

Allegations against a number of MPs saw two Cabinet resignations and led to a handful of party suspensions - some of which are still in place.

Mr Bercow faced claims that he bullied two of his former parliamentary private secretaries, while former Black Rod David Leakey said “explosive and intemperate behaviour” from the Speaker was “legendary”.

The Speaker has denied all the allegations against him.