Michael Fabricant raised the bullying of staff – over 21 incidents – by the former Speaker John Bercow and asked the Leader of the House of Commons, Mark Spencer, today (24th March) what safeguards can be put in place to ensure that this never happens again.
Michael Fabricant asked: “You will know that two and a half weeks ago, the Independent Expert Panel produced a report on the activities of John Bercow, where over 21 incidents of bullying of staff members of this House were proven. For 8 years this cast a dark shadow over this place. And when whistleblowers, including myself, tried to raise it in the chamber, we were shouted down. Indeed on one occasion, a former Labour Leader of the House came up to me and told me it was inappropriate to even mention it in this chamber.
“I have to say Mr Speaker, I am slightly disappointed, that since the report came out we haven’t had a statement from the Leader of the House on this. And a statement in particular about what safeguards we can put in future, when after you have left, and I hope you stay for a long time Mr Speaker, but if another unscrupulous Speaker, a serial liar, a serial bully, were to replace you, there must be something put in place to stop what happened last time. When are we going to hear some initiatives from our Leader of the House?”
The Leader of the House, Mark Spencer, answered: “The answer is right now. To be clear, there is no place for bullying or harassment in Parliament, and MPs should be held to the highest standards, that’s why the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme was set up, to improve the working culture within Parliament. I hope the decision of the ICGS gives all of those people in Westminster the confidence that if they come forward, their cases will be heard fairly, and those who commit such actions will be held to account.”
Speaking afterwards, Michael says: “I am not sure how reassuring Mark’s answer will be. The Panel identified a reluctance of staff who had been bullied to make any complaint as the Speaker is the highest authority in the House of Commons. They felt that any complaint would mean their careers would be ruined. We need some other mechanism to protect staff in the light of the Panel’s report, but so far nothing has been suggested by the House authorities.”