John Bercow: Westminster sexual harassment allegations will not inflict as much damage as expenses scandal

Posted On: 
10th November 2017

The Westminster sexual harassment scandal will not inflict as much damage as the expenses scandal because fewer people will be caught up in it, John Bercow has predicted.

Speaker John Bercow was speaking at a university last night
PA Images

The Speaker of the House of Commons said he did not think the “sheer numbers” would be anywhere near as great as in the 2009 scandal.

It follows a tumultuous eight days in Westminster in which Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned over his past behaviour.

Several of Mrs May's Tory colleagues are currently under investigation over allegations of improper behaviour, including Cabinet ally Damian Green and Trade minister Mark Garnier.

Another Tory MP, Chris Pincher, stepped down as a government whip and referred himself to the police over claims in a newspaper that he made a pass at a party activist in 2001.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also under pressure over why Kelvin Hopkins was promoted to the front bench despite being reprimanded by party whips over claims he acted inappropriately towards an activist.

And the party is investigating activist Bex Bailey's allegation that she was raped at a party event in 2011 and then discouraged from reporting the attack by a party official.

Following these allegations, Mrs May and other political party leaders have agreed a new grievance procedure, along with new face-to-face human resources support for parliamentary staff - an upgrade on the phone service that is currently available. 

Mr Bercow said last night he believes the handling of the crisis "might and probably will limit, not remove, not render insignificant, but limit the damage".

He told an audience at Queen Mary University: "I think that we will get to grips with it by acting speedily and effectively, both to ensure that people who are suspected of wrongdoing are investigated and, in particular, to ensure that a complaints mechanism is established which is characterised above all by independence."

He added: "I am not diminishing the significance of this. It is a real and big challenge, but I think almost learning from past scandals will help us react to and deal with it better.

Small business minister Margot James said recently the growing list of allegations against MPs were on a par with the expenses scandal. 

The former whip said: “I think that some of the behaviour that is reported, that I have no reason to disbelieve, is as bad.