Speaker under fire as report lays bare Commons harassment

Daily news News Westminster

House of Commons speaker John Bercow could stand down next summer in the wake of a report exposing a culture of bullying and harassment in Parliament.

He has told friends he will quit by July next year after ten years in the role, according to the BBC.

The report by Dame Laura Cox accuses leading Parliamentary figures of failing to deal with persistent bullying and sexual harassment.

Bercow has himself been accused of bullying by two former staff and some MPs called yesterday for him to quit immediately in light of the report’s findings.

But others, including Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, said it was ‘not the right time’ for Bercow to go due to the challenges posed by Brexit.

Conservative MP Maria Miller, chair of the women and equalities committee, told Mr Bercow in the Commons chamber that he should step down.

Addressing him directly, she said there was a need for “a complete change in leadership” at the top “including you”.

Tory MP James Duddridge said Bercow was not fit to lead the reform of working practices in the Commons.

Labour’s Jess Phillips said: “Some of us don’t actually care who is the offender, it is the victims we care about.”

Dame Laura’s report said that a “seismic shift” is needed to sweep away the “deference and silence” which facilitated bullying and sexual harassment.

She did not look into individual cases, but said that if highly placed figures were not capable of leading that culture change they “should consider their position.”

The Cox Report was announced earlier this year following a series of allegations against MPs and Parliamentary staff, including:

  • Women being inappropriately touched and repeatedly propositioned.
  • Men trying to kiss women and grabbing their arms, bottoms and breasts.
  • Men putting their arms around women and initiating other unwanted personal contact.

A complaints system was set up several months ago and this could now be extended to historical cases which were previously excluded.

The complaints against Bercow were from two former private secretaries but MPs ruled out any investigation into them.

He says he wants to see the Brexit process through and told the Commons yesterday that an independent body should be set up to investigate bullying and harassment claims.

Bercow is the longest serving speaker since World War Two and has a central role in parliamentary Brexit debates between now and the UK’s departure date from the EU.

His spokeswoman said: “In the event he has anything to say on his future plans, he will make an announcement to the House first.”

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