Tory minister slams John Bercow over 'sexist and demeaning' Commons outbursts
A top Tory minister has criticised Commons Speaker John Bercow for “sexist and demeaning” behaviour towards female MPs.
Energy Minister Claire Perry wrote to the chair of the House to argue a “pattern is emerging where you are finding it increasingly hard to interact respectfully with female MPs”.
The move marks a fresh blow for the Speaker, who has faced a string of bullying allegations and was forced to admit last month that he called Commons leader Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman”.
Ms Perry’s intervention came after Mr Bercow admonished the minister for “dilating” in the Commons by giving long answers in response to questions from MPs.
She quipped that she was in labour the last time she was accused of dilating, prompting a further outburst from the Speaker.
In her letter Ms Perry said he had used a tone and language “that seemed both overly aggressive and particularly sexist”.
She noted that she was afterwards approached by more than a dozen MPs who rallied around her to express “surprise and dismay” at what they considered “demeaning remarks and behaviour”.
Appearing on the BBC Daily Politics show today, Ms Perry said the Speaker had been “quite irascible” in the exchanges.
She added: “As the principal officer of our precious House of Commons to in any way give the impression... that he’s got a women problem in a time when attacks on women, when verbal violence towards women is completely unacceptable, is wrong.
“I’ve asked him to consider his behaviour.”
In response, Mr Bercow rejected the allegations but invited Ms Perry to "clear the air" over cup of tea as soon as possible.
Two of Mr Bercow's former parliamentary secretaries accused him of bullying them.
Angus Sinclair claimed he was subjected to a string of angry outbursts, swearing and mimicry while working for the Speaker, 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, Kate Emms, eventually leading to her being signed off sick.
The Speaker has strenuously denied all the allegations against him.
Serjeant-at-Arms Kamal El-Hajji - the top Commons security official - last night mounted a passionate defence of the Speaker following the wave of allegations against him.
A new complaints procedure is being set up in Parliament for members of staff facing bullying or harassment, but will not examine historical allegations.