Sunday, June 17

Bullying claims emerge from the House of Commons

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An investigation by BBC Two’s Newsnight has uncovered complaints that MPs bullied and harassed House of Commons staff.

Newsnight spoke to female workers who describe aggressive and threatening behaviour. Some women told Newsnight that they had been pushed against walls, forcibly kissed, groped and slapped by MPs.

The investigation identifies that women feel that complains are not taken seriously. In fact, since 2014, when current HR practices were introduced, no complaints raised were escalated to formal channels such as mediation and women were often made to move job while MPs were able to continue their job undisturbed.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow was among those accused of bullying. His private secretary left her job in 2011. It was alleged that Bercow shouted at her and undermined her in front of other staff. As a result she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and was forced to move to another post elsewhere in Parliament.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly was also named during the investigation.  His criticism over several years made the job of a clerk on two committees that he sat on impossible. A witness stated that ‘he wound her up like a screw and reduced her to tears. The more he upset her, the more he enjoyed it, the more he kept turning the screw. He was very aggressive. It felt like no one had the ability or authority to intervene. Everybody knew it was wrong.’

On Twitter, Labour MP Jess Phillips said:

‘I met with clerks and house staff today and talked to them about the way they get treated, this was reflected in tonight’s piece. This must be investigated, independently and fairly.’

Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinon raised concerns that Parliament ‘doesn’t have modern and professional standards.’

Both Farrelly and Bercow have denied any wrongdoing.

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About Author

Hannah is a third-year law student at the University of York and has a particular interest in public law and international criminal law. She joined Legal Loop in August 2017.

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