UK Politics

Julian Huppert complains of Commons 'bullying'

Prime Minister's Questions
Things can get rowdy at PM's questions

Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert has told the BBC that some of the groans that greet him as he rises to his feet in the Commons amount to bullying.

The backbencher faced a chorus of disapproval during prime minister's questions on Wednesday, when he stood up to talk about National Carers Week.

Parliament's official record, Hansard, notes MPs' response to Mr Huppert on 13 February was "oh no".

The MP said: "I think some of it is very much bullying."

"There are clearly efforts by some MPs to try to make it harder for some people to speak, you can see this with a range of people, it's happening to me at the moment it's happened to other people in the past it will happen to more people in the future which is what really upsets me," he told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.

"It's just simply unacceptable behaviour."

'Bad signal'

In recent weeks several women MPs have been greeted with shouts as they got to their feet. Last week Conservative MP Therese Coffey stood up to be met with an audible shout of "What a woman!".

On Wednesday it was the turn of Labour MP for Newcastle North, Catherine McKinnell, who got up to the sound of someone shouting "whey-aye Geordie girl".

Mr Huppert said: "We're trying to get more people into politics, we're trying not to make it an exclusive debating club. We're trying to get more women into politics, I can see why a lot of people, women and men, would look at that sort of behaviour and say: Actually that' s not the environment where I would like to talk about things."

"I just think it sends a really bad signal to the public if this is how Parliament behaves."

But he refused to be drawn on newspaper suggestions that Commons Speaker John Bercow had made the situation worse by referring to Mr Huppert - who has a PhD in biological chemistry- as "the good doctor". "The Speaker has a very very tough job, he has so many people shouting, he had to intervene yesterday I guess it was something like five or six times to try to get people to be quiet."

On Wednesday Mr Bercow intervened to call the House to order and allow Mr Huppert to speak. In February, again at Prime Minister's Questions, he told MPs off: "It is very discourteous of the House to issue a collective groan—notably on the Opposition Benches. It is quite inexplicable."

He is not the only MP to provoke such a reaction in the Commons. BBC parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy said Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes also gets the same treatment - perhaps because other MPs are annoyed at the extra power being in coalition has given Lib Dem MPs.

Guardian sketchwriter Simon Hoggart noted in 1999 that former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown would rise at PM's questions "to the traditional groan".

Conservative MP Paul Maynard, who has cerebral palsy, has complained that MPs had made faces at him as he spoke in a Commons debate in 2010.

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