PM: Parliament bullying claims are 'concerning' and should be investigated
9 March 2018, 15:30
Theresa May has described allegations of bullying in Parliament as "concerning", but says she retains confidence in Commons Speaker John Bercow.
Downing Street said that the Prime Minister believes complaints of abuse made against MPs by staff should be "fully investigated".
It comes after BBC Newsnight published allegations against Mr Bercow, which he "utterly refutes", and two other MPs.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister is clear that there can be no place for bullying or harassment of any kind at Westminster, and everybody should be free to work in an environment that is safe and respectful.
"If any complaints are made, they should be fully investigated."
He added: "With regard to the Speaker, I note the allegations are being contested, but I think these are concerning allegations and there can be no place for bullying or harassment of any kind.
"If complaints are made, they need to be investigated."
The spokesman said Mrs May had confidence in Mr Bercow as Speaker.
One female employee told the BBC there is a "culture of fear" within the Commons, with staff described as having little faith in complaints procedures.
It followed an investigation involving dozens of interviews with current and former staff.
The programme claimed Mr Bercow has a reputation as a bully.
Kate Emms was said to have left a job as Mr Bercow's private secretary in 2011, after less than a year, due to his behaviour.
The Speaker's spokesman said: "The Speaker completely and utterly refutes the allegation that he behaved in such a manner, either eight years ago, or at any other time.
"Any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue."
It was also alleged Tory MP Mark Pritchard is notorious for shouting at and berating House of Commons clerks, including telling one official: "You stupid young woman, you haven't got a f****** clue what you're talking about. Who the f*** do you think you are?"
He told the programme: "I understand, over the past several years the House authorities have addressed numerous complaints about MPs, but they have also informed me they have no record of any complaints against me, and if they had, I would have been notified."
Labour MP Paul Farrelly was reported to be subject to a complaint on behalf of former clerk Emily Commander.
A subsequent inquiry in 2012 was said to have found Mr Farrelly's behaviour amounted to "an abuse of power or position, unfair treatment and undermining a competent worker by constant criticism", adding "the conduct was offensive and insulting".
But, after the case was referred to the House of Commons Commission - a panel of MPs chaired by the Speaker - it was decided they could not rule Mr Farrelly had bullied Ms Commander, the programme said.
Mr Farrelly told Newsnight: "In 2012 allegations were made about me having bullied a clerk to the Committee during the compilation of the phone hacking report.
"These allegations were investigated and not upheld.
"Despite this, I apologised if I had inadvertently upset the clerk who had suffered stress.
"The policy under which they were investigated was considered to be so unfair to those complained about that it was immediately withdrawn and replaced by another policy."
A House of Commons spokesperson: "We take the welfare of our staff extremely seriously, and strongly reject any claims to the contrary.
"It is a grotesque exaggeration to suggest that members of the House of Commons service work in a 'culture of fear' in relation to dealing with bullying and harassment by MPs.
"The House of Commons takes pride in being a responsible and supportive employer, and does not tolerate bullying or harassment of any kind.
"In 2014 the House of Commons introduced the revised Respect policy which is specifically designed to combat bullying and harassment of House employees by MPs or their staff.
"In addition, we have implemented a range of measures to complement the respect policy, including training for managers on how to address reports of bullying or harassment and a team of trained bullying and harassment contacts for staff to approach should they have concerns.
"We are unable to comment on any individual cases but note that the issues raised by BBC Newsnight precede the introduction of these new procedures and processes."
(c) Sky News 2018: PM: Parliament bullying claims are 'concerning' and should be investigated