Westminster bullying scandal: MPs support formation of bullying complaints panel – BBC Newsnight

published on July 9, 2020

In March of 2018 Newsnight broadcast itsfirst report on bullying and harassmentin the House of Commons it contained araft of accusations from current andformer staff members employed by thehouse alleging unacceptable behavior by

MPs he sort of maneuvered me out intothe corridor and his his arms around meand kissed me on the lips the MPexploded at me so aggressively that mycolleagues stood between us tophysically shield him from me the

Investigation shed light on a culture ofharassing and bullying less than a yearbefore the Speaker of the House JohnBercow had spoken on the issue theremust be zero tolerance of sexualharassment or bullying here at

Westminster or elsewhere but Newsnightrevealed that the reality was verydifferent in fact the speaker himselfwas accused of bullying a staff memberwho was reportedly signed off sick dueto his behavior the speaker vehemently

Denied the claims the key issue was thatmany staff members in the houseparticularly women felt they had noprotection from these small minority ofMPs who harassed or bullied their staffas a committee of MPs had the final say

On any action takenDavid Leakey the former black rod whoseresponsibility was keeping order in theHouse of Lords spoke out against thespeaker's bullying and unreasonablebehavior so did Angus Sinclair the

Speaker's former private secretarythere was a tirade of I've let him downit was quite the worst thing a lot ofbad language and suddenly his mobilephone which he'd been holding was wasflung on the desk in front of me and it

You knowbroke into a lot of bits former HighCourt judge Dame Laura Cox was appointedto look into how the house deals withbullyingand harassment complaints in October of

2018 she published her report whichfound a culture cascading from the topdown of deference subservienceacquiescence and silence in whichbullying harassment and sexualharassment have been able to thrive and

Have long been tolerated and concealedcrucially Dame Laura recommended thatthe process for determining complaintsof bullying harassment or sexualharassment should be an entirelyindependent process in which MPs will

Play no part today two years and threemonths after that first report the housedebated whether to establish anindependent panel of eight experts todeal with bullying allegations againstMPs as leader of this house I'm ashamed

When people come to see me and tell mewhat they have suffered appalled at thestories that they tell me shockedsometimes they haven't been to thepolice about them they're so awful andthat's why we have to have this change

Which does hit at the heart of ourConstitution in contention was whetherMP should be able to debate the seriouscases investigated by the independentpanel which could put staff offreporting about behavior even if they're

Kept anonymous but tonight MPs voted torule out Commons debates on seriouscomplaints against MPs a move which willmean common staff have more trust in theprocess the noes left 238 so the eyeshave it the eyes have it well just a

Little earlier I spoke to JennyMcCulloch she was one of the House ofCommons clerks who complained to theCommons and told Newsnight she beenbullied I began by getting her reactionto what she'd heard tonight of the vote

Well it means that there's no going tobe an independent process in place fordealing with complaints at the House ofCommons and that MPs won't play any partin until the very last stage when theyget to vote whether to approve the most

Serious of sanctionsand what difference does that actuallymake well that makes a it makes a hugedifference to staff her in the ice knowbecause they can have confidence thatthe complete system is is independent

And can be trusted that their complaintswill be investigated properly andtreated fairly what kind of impact doyou think it will have on those workingin the Commons now well I hope it willhelp to change the culture there I know

There's a lot of work going on alreadyto make it a better and safer place towork with normal standards of HumanResources and working practices in placebut I think some of the old attitudesstill remain and no I staff will be able

To see that the procedures are in placeand all being well have confidence to togo ahead and to use them and seeksupport and get a fair outcome do youknow of other cases are you aware ofother cases that you think might come to

Light now as a result of this beingindependent of MPs yes I think soI certainly I knew of cases where thepotential complainant was deterred bythe the prospect of MPs being able todebate cases at the very end of the

Process I knew of a number of people whosaid that they wouldn't go anywhere neara system where that was the the laststage how many more people do you thinkwill come forward the you know of Icouldn't put a number on it I mean I

Think it's only a very small minority ofMPs and I'll start off with the commentswho would behave in such a way as tomerit complaints but because of theculture and that has built up over anumber of years there are outstanding

Complaints so I think it will take sometime to resolve those so as you say it'sa small minority of MPs but when youtalk about the culture you mean what asort of culture of complicity ofprotection almost yes that's right you

Knowinquire Adium burrow cops identified aculture of deference and subservienceand there is a there is a powerimbalance in the coments and some ofthat is itself a necessity obviously

Because MPs do you have a particularstatus and we respect that theyrepresent thousands of of people butthat doesn't make them immune fromnormal standards of behavior and itdoesn't mean that staff shouldn't be

Able to expect to be treated decently atwork since you brought your case whichNewsnight heard we have a new speaker wehave a new government do you haveconfidence that the culture itself hasnow changed I think that I think there's

Been a lot of progress I think some ofthe old attitudes still do remain andit'll take time to bed in and I think inevery every organisation every group ofpeople there's going to be a range ofbehavior but what really matters is is

Where the critical mass is a lot of thatdepends on on the tone that is set atthe top of the organisation that youngerand newer members of staff learn to andto emulate and to asperity that's whatreally matters

You brought allegations of bullyingagainst Keith Vaz who's no longer inthat position Keith Vaz denied theaccusations do you think you'll ever getan apology or compensation for what youwent through are you seeking that I

Can't talk about the details of thecomplaint that I made about Keith for asit's on the record that I said I wasgoing to do it and what I'm reallyconcerned about is that what happened tome shouldn't happen to anybody else what

Happened to my friends my old colleaguesshouldn't happen to anybody else and Ithink today even though it was a defeatfor the government and a huge change insome by some people's terms to the tothe Constitution um really I think today

Everybody at the House of Commons hasoneand because it would be a better placeto work and that is much more importantto me than the outcome of of anyindividual case including my own

Jenny McCullough thank you very muchindeed

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