POLITICS
14/11/2018 14:57 GMT

Top Commons Clerk David Natzler 'Acknowledges Past Failings' As He Announces Retirement

Sir David Natzler said those behind bullying and harassment should be sanctioned, so Westminster can move on.

Those behind bullying and harassment in Westminster should face sanctions, the House of Commons Clerk has said as he announced he will stand down. 

Sir David Natzler will leave his position as Parliament’s most senior legal and constitutional adviser in March. 

He used his resignation letter to call on those behind bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct to “acknowledge past failings” and said he himself had done so.

An inquiry by Dame Laura Cox into Westminster’s bullying culture lifted the lid on a toxic environment fuelled by ready access to alcohol. 

Natzler says Parliament can move on if the culprits accept their guilt. 

His statement was read out by Speaker John Bercow, who has himself faced calls to resign over allegations he bullied two former officials, which he denies.  

Natzler said it had been “a turbulent four years” during his tenure as Commons clerk, adding: “The last 12 months have of course seen the surfacing in different ways of the complex issue of bullying and harassment and sexual misconduct in the parliamentary community. 

“I am confident that we can deal with it if we all acknowledge past failings, as I readily do, and move beyond concerns about process to reach a place where, quite simply, everybody in the community treats everybody else with respect and dignity and where, if they do not, they are called out and, if necessary, sanctioned.” 

Sir David Natzler will leave his role in March

One former Commons staffer told HuffPost UK Bercow called her a “little girl” because he was unable to find an envelope he was looking for. 

A spokesperson, however, said the Speaker had “absolutely no recollection” of the alleged incident.

Natzler told MPs in October that there had always been a “subculture” of bullying in Parliament and that “unresolved and serious issues” from the past continue to “poison the well”.

Dozens of serving and former clerks and other officials – along with several MPs – have called for the recommendations of Cox’s report to be implemented in full.

Natzler has served in various senior Commons positions over the course of 43 years and was appointed clerk in 2015. 

He also said the public should appreciate MPs and their staff more, saying public servants “deserve better” than the “spiteful abuse” they often face while doing their job. 

He said it “has been a privilege if not always a positive pleasure” to serve.  

Again reading from Natzler’s letter, Bercow said: “I do not always think the public appreciate the work of members, or their staff, as they should – and perhaps they never will.”

He added: “Members and their staff carry out their work in the face of spiteful abuse and threat and vilification. They deserve better.”  

The announcement of Natzler’s retirement, which came after Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, prompted a round of applause from MPs, something very rare in the chamber. 

In a statement, Bercow paid tribute to Natzler’s “tireless and outstanding service”. 

He said: “Sir David held a number of senior appointments within the House of Commons’ Chamber and Committee Services before being appointed Clerk of the House in 2015 – acting as principal constitutional adviser to the House of Commons.

“Sir David has vast experience and expertise and has served this House without interruption since 1975 – and his support and advice for me, for my deputies, for Members, and the government, on Parliamentary procedure and business, has been unswerving.

“I have known this day was coming for over a year – so it is with some sadness I announced its arrival today. For me personally, Sir David has been a loyal colleague and friend – and I know his calm and good-humoured presence will be sorely missed by us all.” 

Natzler’s replacement will be announced in January.