MPs debate report into harassment of parliamentary staff

Image of harassmentImage source, Getty Images

MPs have debated Parliament's response to the bullying and harassment of staff working in the Palace of Westminster.

A scathing report last month by High Court judge Dame Laura Cox found lewd, aggressive and intimidating behaviour by MPs and senior staff had been "tolerated and concealed" for years.

The Commons authorities are expected to set up an independent body, outside the control of MPs, to examine all cases.

Meanwhile, ministers are reportedly considering a new bullying probe.

The Independent suggested this would look into allegations of harassment against people directly employed by MPs rather than by the House of Commons.

Monday's debate was the first opportunity for MPs to debate, at length, the Cox report and Parliament's response to it.

Parliament has acknowledged an "institutional failure" to protect people working there from unacceptable treatment, including sexual misconduct, and to act on complaints.

The Cox reported multiple examples of women saying they were "inappropriately touched", "repeatedly propositioned" and insulted in "vulgar, gender-related terms".

Media caption,
One junior member of staff: "I've had staff shout in my face"

Parliament has endorsed, in full, the recommendations of the report, which called for the existing complaints and grievance scheme to be opened up to historical allegations immediately and for MPs to play no role, in future, in examining bullying, harassment and sexual harassment allegations.

The executive board of the House of Commons met on Friday to discuss a plan of action aimed at stopping bullying and harassment in future.

Commons Speaker John Bercow, who has himself denied allegations of bullying by former employees, will chaired Monday's debate.

Several MPs have called on him and other senior officials to step down, saying he is not the right person to bring about the change in culture that is required.

Mr Bercow has said taking the power to police their own behaviour out of the hands of MPs, as happened with expenses claims, was the best way to guarantee fairness and public confidence.