John Bercow criticised for chairing debate into allegations of bullying by MPs including him
Tory MPs rounded on Commons Speaker John Bercow as he chaired a debate on bullying sparked by allegations made against him and other parliamentarians.
Mr Bercow was accused in a Newsnight report of shouting at and intimidating his former private secretary Kate Emms, leading to her being signed off with post-traumatic stress disorder – allegations he denies.
The programme, which also included bullying claims against two other MPs, prompted an Urgent Question in the Commons today on Parliament’s complaints procedures.
Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom responded by announcing an inquiry “into allegations of systemic bullying” which would hear from past and current staff.
But Mr Bercow was criticised by his Tory colleagues for continuing to chair proceedings while the issue was debated.
Rochford and Southend East MP James Duddridge, asked: "Is it appropriate for Mr Speaker to remain in his place when there are allegations against him?"
Outspoken Conservative backbencher Michael Fabricant also suggested that an inquiry by the House of Commons Commission, which is chaired by Mr Bercow, “would not be an independent judge or jury and indeed would not be seen to be as such”.
Ms Leadsom told MPs: “The House Commission next meets on Monday and I have given notice to my fellow members that I will be recommending a short, independently-led inquiry by the Commission looking into allegations of systemic bullying of parliamentary staff….
“I am more determined than ever that we banish all kinds of harassment and bullying form this place because make no mistake, there is a need for change.”
Elsewhere in the statement, she expressed her support for the “excellent secretariat” on the harassment working group, of which Kate Emms is a member.
Earlier today a letter from David Natzler, the Clerk of the House, emerged admitting that protections for Parliamentary staff could be improved.
He wrote: “Some of you have expressed to me and to others your dismay at the tone of our statement to Newsnight and the subsequent email we sent to you on Friday morning.
“I acknowledge we got it wrong in giving the impression we were in denial.”
“The policies agreed in 2014 improved the protections offered to staff. But I have listened to the views expressed over the last few days and I recognise that we must look at our policies to see how we can improve them.”