In Brief

John Bercow among MPs accused of bullying in Parliament

House of Commons denies claims that staff work in ‘culture of fear’

The House of Commons has denied claims that parliamentary staff endure a “culture of fear” following allegations that MPs including John Bercow bullied, harassed and intimidated workers.

The complaints were revealed in an investigation by BBC Newsnight, which spoke to dozens of female Westminister staff who described “aggressive and threatening behaviour”.

Speaker of the House Bercow was accused of bullying a senior member of his parliamentary staff out of her job.

Bercow, who has “repeatedly called on political parties to clamp down on misconduct by MPs”,  allegedly berated his former private secretary, Kate Emms, The Times reports. 

Emms told the BBC that she had been “shouted at and undermined by the Speaker”, leading her to quit after less than a year. Following a three-month break, she returned to a “different role in the Commons, designed so that she would not have to speak to Bercow”, according to The Times.

Bercow’s spokesperson has rejected the allegation that he behaved in such a manner, “either eight years ago, or at any other time”, adding that “any suggestion to the contrary is simply untrue”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Commons said it was a “responsible and supportive employer” and did not tolerate “bullying or harassment of any kind”.

“We take the welfare of our staff extremely seriously, and strongly reject any claims to the contrary,” the spokesman added. “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.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson is calling for a “thorough, independent investigation”, the BBC reports.

According to The Daily Telegraph: “Parliament has a culture of bullying surrounding clerks - who are directly employed by the House of Commons - many of whom are too afraid to speak out because they have seen others lose their jobs when they complained.”

Bercow has been the Speaker of the House of Commons since 2009. He was re-elected unopposed to serve again after the 2017 general election.

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