POLITICS
16/10/2018 09:55 BST | Updated 16/10/2018 11:23 BST

John Bercow Must Resign Over Commons Bullying Allegations, Says Senior Tory

Maria Miller says legitimacy of the Commons is being 'undermined'.

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John Bercow should resign in the wake of a damning bullying investigation, the Conservative chair of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee has said.

Maria Miller added to the pressure that is growing on Bercow to step down as Speaker in the wake of a shock probe by Dame Laura Cox QC, which found “urgent and serious problems” in the way abusive behaviour by MPs and staff is dealt with in Parliament.

The former Tory cabinet minister said the report showed that “bullying and harassment is coming right from the top”.

Miller told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The legitimacy of the House of Commons is undermined by having this sort of behaviour and culture prevail”.

Asked if this meant Bercow should resign, she said: “Absolutely.” 

She has demanded the Speaker grant an Urgent Question in the Commons on Tuesday afternoon so MPs can discuss the report.

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Maria Miller has said John Bercow must resign.

Dame Laura, a High Court judge, said a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence” had allowed the bullying and harassment of staff in the House of Commons to thrive.

Bercow has faced claims – strongly denied – that he bullied two former officials.

In her report, Dame Laura said it was “difficult to envisage” how the reforms needed could be delivered under the current senior House administration.

She called for the establishment of an “entirely independent process” for dealing with staff complaints against MPs in which MPs themselves play no part.

Sir Kevin Barron, the outgoing Labour chairman of the Commons Committee on Standards, also said the Speaker must quit.

Writing in The Times, he said: “The change in culture has to come from the top, and unfortunately I no longer believe that the Speaker, John Bercow, is the correct person to provide that leadership, so he should step down.”

Dame Laura’s report painted a picture of a Commons where MPs enjoyed a “God-like status”, knowing they would never be subject to disciplinary action, and where abusive behaviour was actively covered up.

But Labour MP Barry Sheerman, the former chair of the Commons Education Committee, said people calling for Bercow to stand down were part of a “far right” Brexiteer plot.

Complaints ranged from staff being shouted and sworn at and belittled on an “almost daily” basis to the “predatory” behaviour of some male MPs towards female staff.

They included frequent propositioning and “inappropriate touching” – including “trying to kiss them, grabbing their arms or bottoms or stroking their breasts or bottoms” – in an atmosphere fuelled by ready access to alcohol.

Dame Laura said while there was an “expectation of loyalty” among staff towards the institution they worked for, the standing of the House was being diminished by the failure of its senior leadership to deal with the issue.

“That sense of loyalty has been tested to breaking point by a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed,” she said.

“This is not to demonise the entire institution, but unacceptable behaviour by some, whether elected Members or House staff, inflicts damage on everyone and undermines the legitimacy and authority of the House of Commons. Parliament is diminished.”

The calls for Bercow to quit came as a Labour MP who helped block a probe into the bullying allegations against him was announced as the new chairwoman of the Commons Committee on Standards.

Kate Green was one of three MPs on the committee which refused in May to authorise an investigation into the claims.