MPs afraid to criticise Speaker John Bercow for fear of being 'humiliated', says senior Tory

Posted On: 
1st January 2019

MPs are "fearful" of criticising the Speaker of the House of Commons in case he tries to "humiliate" them, a senior Conservative MP has said.

Maria Miller said "outbursts" by John Bercow could be "very embarrassing and for some people even humiliating".
Credit: 
PA

Maria Miller - the former culture secretary who now chairs the cross-party Women and Equalities Committee - said "many" MPs had been on the "receiving end" of outbursts by John Bercow.

And she renewed her call for the Speaker to step down in the wake of a hard-hitting inquiry into bullying and harassment in the House of Commons.

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The ex-Cabinet minister told the Press Association: "The reason people will not speak out is fear of the Speaker: they are fearful of him and maybe they have just cause to be fearful of him.

"He controls your ability to be able to contribute in the chamber, and secondly his outbursts can be very embarrassing and for some people even humiliating."

The senior MP made the comments as she warned that the House of Commons risked being brought into "disrepute" over its response to the Dame Laura Cox inquiry into the working culture at Westminster.

The report - launched in the wake of claims that parliamentary staff had been abused by MPs and peers - found that a "disturbing" culture of intimidation had stopped victims from speaking out about bullying and harassment at work.

In October the House of Commons Commission - which handles HR policy in Parliament - acknowledged that it had "too often failed to provide a workplace free from bullying and harassment" and agreed to implement all three of the inquiry's key recommendations.

But Ms Miller said: "It's absolutely disgraceful the way in which the Cox Report is being taken forward, and that significant issues that she raised appear to be being swept under the carpet.

"I will continue to do everything that I can to make sure that there is an acknowledgement of the need to change the culture here.

"We cannot expect other organisations to be heeding or to take note and to act on campaigns like the MeToo campaign if Parliament is selective in the way that it chooses to implement the Cox Report."

She added: "At the moment it's clear that a number of modernisation projects here have stalled and that is completely unacceptable and MPs will be taking the matter into their own hands."

'SWIFT AND LASTING CHANGE'

The senior MP - who was one of the first to publicly call on Mr Bercow to step down in the wake of the inquiry - meanwhile said Dame Laura had been "absolutely clear" that a change of management was needed in the Commons.

The Speaker has also faced claims, which he denies, that he bullied two of his former parliamentary private secretaries.

Ms Miller said: "Sir David Natzler [House of Commons Clerk] has announced that he will be leaving: we now need clarity as to when the Speaker will be leaving...

"It is difficult to explain to the businesses in this country that are being criticised for poor culture why Parliament is not doing more on this, and it is also at risk of bringing the House of Commons into disrepute."

A spokesperson for Mr Bercow said: "The Speaker, alongside the entire House of Commons Commission, has committed to swift and lasting change in response to Dame Laura Cox's report and accepted its key recommendations.

"A number of changes have already been made in response to the report and the Speaker hopes and expects to see further such progress made in 2019.

"The Speaker was elected by the House in 2017 for the course of the Parliament. In the event he has anything to say on his future plans, he will make an announcement to the House first."