MP warns against allowing 'Jimmy Savile situation' in Parliament

Image source, HoC

A Labour MP has urged action to prevent a "Jimmy Savile situation" developing in Parliament.

Jess Phillips said MPs, staff members, and others should be allowed to log concerns to allow patterns to show up and avoid suspicions being ignored.

The suggestion came during a debate on Dame Laura Cox's report into bullying.

A 2016 review found an "atmosphere of fear" at the BBC meant opportunities to stop "monstrous" abuse by DJ Jimmy Savile were missed.

The Dame Janet Smith review identified 72 victims of Savile and 21 victims of broadcaster Stuart Hall, over five decades from 1959.

She said BBC culture "was deeply deferential" and staff were reluctant to speak to managers about complaints.

Ms Phillips told MPs she had received "some harrowing reports" of behaviour by people in the House of Commons from people she knew "won't ever come forward".

"I do think there needs to be some system so we don't end up in a Jimmy Savile situation where everybody says 'Well, we all knew, oh everybody knew he was a bit like that, oh yeah, course he was'.

"We need a place where Members of Parliament - in fact, members of staff, anybody who is around this place - can without prejudice log that somewhere so that we can show patterns."

Bullying probe

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 have announced a new probe into allegations of bullying and harassment of staff employed by MPs - to be headed by QC Gemma White - although it will not consider individual cases.

Speaker John Bercow, who has denied allegations of bullying levelled against him, had been expected to chair the debate on Dame Laura's report but opted to allow two of his deputies to officiate instead.

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom said there needed to be a change to the "power balance" in the Commons, give staff a strong voice and work out how to stop "failures at the top infecting our entire workplace".

A new Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme had so far received a total of 51 calls and a "small number of investigations into complaints" were under way, she told MPs.

Image source, HoC
Image caption, Philip Davies said the Commons could learn from Asda

Maria Miller, who chairs the Commons Women and Equalities Committee, said: "The problems run deeper than just the abuse itself, but the dismissive way in which allegations are handled has created a toxic lack of trust in senior management."

SNP frontbencher Alison Thewliss said: "I've no doubt that the ingrained masculine culture in this institution is a key factor in the shocking cases of bullying and harassment that have been brought to the attention of this House. This behaviour has got to stop."

Conservative MP Philip Davies, meanwhile, suggested the Commons should seek advice on how to change its culture from supermarket giant Asda.

The Shipley MP, who worked at Asda before he became an MP, said: "One of the best culture changes I ever saw and ever experienced was during my time at Asda.

"They completely transformed the very hierarchical culture in that organisation."

The MP also defended Mr Bercow, saying the bullying debate should not be used as a "witch hunt or an attempt to settle old scores".

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