In Brief

Jacob Rees-Mogg loses vote on debating Westminster bullying claims

Critics said proposal would undermine new independent panel and ‘re-victimise’ victims

MPs last night voted down a proposal introduced by Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg to allow the House to debate complaints of bullying and harassment brought against them. 

An amendment tabled by Labour MP Chris Bryant ruling out debates on sanctions made by a new independent panel set up to deal with such allegations passed by 243 to 238 - “to the delight of parliamentary staffers and campaigners”, says The Guardian.

In an open letter seen by the newspaper, past and present parliamentary staff, union leaders, MPs and women’s groups had accused Rees-Mogg of undermining the new independent system.

The eight-member panel replaces the committee of MPs that currently decides on disciplinary action against their peers, and has the power to “impose sanctions including suspensions and exclusions of MPs in serious cases”, the BBC reports. 

Although MPs were given a free vote on the Bryant amendment, Tory whips had told their MPs that the chief whip would be voting against it, in a move that The Time’s political reporter Esther Webber claims left Tory staffers “furious”.

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Despite the intervention, the amendment won cross-party support, with new Tory MP and former employment law barrister Laura Farris arguing that a disciplinary process that “invites members to speak up for colleagues against a background of party allegiance and personal loyalties is fundamentally problematic”. 

Labour MP Meg Hillier warned that the Commons could be used as a “bully pulpit” if public debates went ahead, with complainants potentially being named under parliamentary privilege.

That fear was echoed by Tory MP and former leader of the House Andrea Leadsom, who said that allowing complaints to be debated would “result in a complainant feeling re-victimised”. And Labour’s Jess Phillips warned that “allowing debates would stop victims from coming forward”.

The vote result was described as a “historic moment” by Amy Leversidge, assistant general secretary of the FDA Union.

“It is an astounding achievement for all the brave women and men who spoke out publicly to try and make Parliament a better place to work,” she said.

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