Inquiry into Parliament bullying claims backed by ministers

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Commons kingpin Andrea Leadsom has called for an inquiry into allegations of bullying in Parliament.

It is probable to consider whether all Commons staff should be covered by the independent grudge procedure, not just those working directly for MPs.

It follows a BBC investigation which reported kicks about several MPs.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly, one of the MPs mentioned in the report, chance he had been the victim of “selective leaking” and “recycling” of old allegations.

He told MPs that it was “not a field” for those involved, nor their families.

Mrs Leadsom announced her support for an interrogation in response to an urgent question from Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.

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Ms Lucas remarked there should be an assumption that all historic allegations of bullying and harassment of Commons stave – known as “clerks” – should be investigated.

“People working in parliament should be skilful to work without fear of intimidation or bullying and today I’m calling for every fellow of staff to be given the best possible protection,” she said.

Mrs Leadsom bid the issue would be considered by the House of Commons commission at its next tryst and she would recommend the matter would be handled by an independent figure sooner than MPs.

Insisting she was absolutely committed to “stamping out” all forms forms of bullying and harassment, she averred it was not clear that the existing Respect policy setting out procedures for Joints staff not employed by MPs provided “sufficient” protection.

She told MPs everyone should be struck by the “same rights and protections” and be held to “the same high standards”.

While it was no more than a “small minority” of MPs who behaved badly, she said their actions “demeaned” all and sundry working in the Palace of Westminster and the culture of the Commons “needed to change”.

‘Not happy’

The Newsnight investigation uncovered complaints about a number of MPs, including Rabble-rouser John Bercow, allegations which he denies.

Having granted the immediate question to Ms Lucas as part of his job as speaker, Mr Bercow was present in the chamber for the hearing.

Conservative MP James Duddridge – a long-term critic of Mr Bercow – questioned whether it was “suitable” for Mr Bercow to chair the proceedings given he had been named in the BBC report.

Mr Farrelly believed the BBC’s report had been “one-sided” and suggested there was a “disparity of support” close by to MPs who were the victims of complaints compared with those making them – who he symbolized often had considerable backing from their unions.

Earlier on Monday, the clerk of the Residence of Commons, David Natzler, wrote to staff on Monday, saying he was in “no doubt” that there were “undetermined issues over bullying and harassment”.

He recognised policies needed to be re-examined and upgraded, but accepted this would be “no substitute for cultural change.”

He said the Assembly was “moving in the right direction”, but added: “The only ultimately acceptable development will be a workplace culture free of bullying and harassment.”

Labour’s Jess Phillips has collect summoned for MPs who were found to have mistreated their staff to be stripped of their staffing permits in future.

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