John Bercow's alleged comments about Andrea Leadsom are 'unacceptable', says Theresa May
John Bercow's alleged comments about Commons leader Andrea Leadsom being "f****** useless" are "unacceptable", according to Theresa May.
Downing Street also said the Prime Minister would back an investigation into the incident - in which the Speaker is also accused of calling Mrs Leadsom a "stupid woman" - if an official complaint is made.
Mr Bercow - who has previously been forced to deny bullying claims - is said to have uttered the remarks in the wake of Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
He had just launched a thinly-veiled attack on Mrs Leadsom, the Commons leader, in a row over parliamentary procedure.
Labour chief whip Nick Brown had raised a point of order complaining about the Government tabling statements on an Opposition Day, thereby reducing the amount of time available for debate.
As Mrs Leadsom looked on, a clearly-irritated Mr Bercow said: "One looks to people traditionally with responsibility for safeguarding the rights of the House, of whom the chair is one, but not the only one, to take these matters very seriously.
"I hope that that message is heard loudly and clearly on the Government front bench, at the highest level, by the people in particular by whom it needs to be heard."
Eyewitnesses have said they they heard Mr Bercow call Mrs Leadsom a "stupid woman", while he is also alleged to have described her as "f****** useless".
A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office did not deny that Mr Bercow had made the remarks.
She said: “Wednesday was an unusual and controversial day in how business was handled in the House by the Government - and some strong and differing views were expressed on all sides on the subject.
"The Speaker treats his colleagues with respect and strives at every turn to facilitate the House of Commons."
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: "We've seen the alleged remarks and clearly the Prime Minister thinks that they are unacceptable and if an official complaint is made it should be properly investigated."
She pointed out that an independent commission had been set up to look at claims of bullying are harassment in Parliament, and that a new grievance and complaint policy was being set up.
Asked if the Prime Minister had faith in Mr Bercow, the spokeswoman said: "Questions of confidence are a matter for Parliament to decide."
It emerged on Wednesday that MPs on the Committee on Standards had voted 3-2 against launching a formal probe into claims of bullying made against the Speaker by two of his former parliamentary secretaries.
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.
A source close to Andrea Leadsom told the Daily Telegraph: "Andrea is absolutely determined to see the independent complaints procedure up and running as soon as possible. As for Bercow’s terrible temper, it would be completely unacceptable to treat someone like that in any other walk of life."