John Bercow 'to stand down next summer' after row over Commons bullying claims

Posted On: 
16th October 2018

Commons Speaker John Bercow will stand down next summer, it has been reported, as he faced sharp criticism from MPs following a damning report on bullying in Parliament.

John Bercow Commons Speaker John Bercow has been under fire over claims of bullying and harassment in Parliament
Credit: 
PA

Mr Bercow - who has served in the role since 2009 - has reportedly told friends he will stand aside in either June or July.

A source told the BBC: "He doesn't want it to look as if he's been forced out. But it may be it won't be enough, and some people will insist he goes much sooner."

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A spokesperson for Mr Bercow said: "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."

The shock report came after the Speaker faced direct calls to quit as an inquiry into bullying in Parliament called for a major shake-up at the top of the Commons.

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

The probe, led by Dame Laura Cox, concluded that the Speaker should step down along with other parliamentary bosses to help sweep away the harassment culture within the Palace of Westminster.

During an Urgent Question on its findings today, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller said: “The House of Commons has a duty to lead by example. To be an exemplar employer.

“The report is clear that there needs to be a complete change in leadership at the most senior level, including you, Mr Speaker, as chief officer, if we are, in Dame Laura’s words, to press the reset button.”

Dame Laura’s report warned that abuse in Westminster had routinely gone unchallenged, had at times been “actively” concealed and that no support or protection was provided for victims.

It concluded: “I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration.”

Conservative MP James Duddridge - a frequent critic of Mr Bercow - described the report as “disturbing” and asked: “How can we encourage Mr Speaker to stop this behaviour?"

Others leapt to Mr Bercow’s defence however, with Green MP Caroline Lucas accusing Conservatives of "bullying of their own".

Labour’s Jess Philips meanwhile lashed out at Mr Duddridge, accusing him of hijacking the issue for “political gain”.

"You are speaking only for yourself," she told the Tory MP.

"I personally think that the management of this place probably needs a massive overhaul. I'm not going to point the finger for the sake of newspaper headlines.

"But the fact of the matter is that nothing I have heard today fills me with any hope that politics will be taken out of this."

Earlier shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry came under fire from a trade union representing Commons clerks after she said it was “not the time" for Mr Bercow to stand down from the role. The Labour frontbencher said accounts of Mr Bercow's behaviour did not match those she had experienced or heard from other senior figures in Westminster.

Labour MP Ben Bradshaw later echoed Ms Thornberry’s words, telling the House Mr Bercow should stay on to "stand up for members" against the Government’s pursuit of an "intolerable Brexit".

But in a clear dig at Mr Bercow, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom dismissed that suggestion, saying: "I don't understand why the Right Honourable Member thinks the future to this great nation relies on one person."

In a statement, Mr Bercow called for the establishment of independent body “to adjudicate upon all allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct”.