Commons bullying: Outside figure to head inquiry

image source, PA
image captionJohn Bercow did not take part in Monday's discussions

The body which oversees the running of the House of Commons has backed an independent probe into alleged bullying of parliamentary officials by MPs.

The House of Commons Commission said an outside figure would head the inquiry.

Speaker John Bercow, who was named in a recent BBC report about the conduct of MPs and who has denied claims he undermined a female aide, did not take part in Monday's meeting on the issue.

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom welcomed the decision.

Last week, she said the inquiry should focus on whether all Commons staff should be covered by the independent grievance procedure, not just those working directly for MPs.

Following recent revelations in a BBC Newsnight report, clerk of the House of Commons, David Natzler, said he was in "no doubt" that there were "unresolved issues over bullying and harassment".

Mr Natzler, who sits on the Commission, said he recognised policies needed to be re-examined and improved but accepted this would be "no substitute for cultural change".

In a statement on Monday, the Commission - which is chaired by Mr Bercow and whose members include Conservative, Labour, the SNP and Lib Dem MPs as well as two lay members - said it had agreed to the idea.

"The Commission agreed that an inquiry should be initiated immediately, and tasked its non-executive members - who are not parliamentarians - with appointing an independent expert to lead the inquiry and with developing terms of reference in collaboration with that person," it said.

It added: "The Speaker did not join the meeting until after this discussion had taken place."

Several MPs have called for all historic allegations of bullying and harassment of Commons staff - known as "clerks" - to be investigated.

But it is unclear whether such a wide remit will be sanctioned and whether individual cases will be considered.

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