Parliament

A system “completely independent of MPs” is to rule on bullying and sexual harassment complaints in the Commons.

The House of Commons Commission backed plans for an “expert panel”, replacing the committee of MPs that currently has the final say on action taken.

Dame Laura Cox said she was “extremely pleased” with the support for the plan, which was recommended in her 2018 report into bullying in Parliament.

The FDA union called it a “seismic change” for staff.

“I am very happy to see that the Commission has agreed with the preferred option of an independent expert panel, subject to consultation and to a sensible agreement as to a broad range of sanctions,” Dame Laura said.

“I am extremely pleased to see that this option has commanded the most widespread support.

“It also meets the requirements of independence and expertise, which are so crucial to the success of any scheme.”

Her report, published in 2018, detailed alleged sexual harassment by MPs from women who said they were “inappropriately touched” and “repeatedly propositioned”.

“Disturbing” cases were “long been tolerated and concealed”, the report from the former High Court judge said, adding that senior House of Commons staff needed to make radical changes.

‘Demand for independence’

It was followed by other reports, including Gemma White QC’s on bullying and harassment of past and present staff of MPs, as well as MPs themselves, and an independent review of Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

Among those to be accused of bullying was former Speaker John Bercow – who has consistently denied the allegations.

“This is a seismic change for staff working in Parliament and we are pleased that the Commission has adopted our preferred model of a Parliamentary Tribunal, consisting of external experts, to determine outcomes on complaints,” FDA assistant general secretary Amy Leversidge said.

“We have worked tirelessly for Parliament to end MPs’ self-regulation over bullying, harassment and sexual harassment cases.”

She said the FDA had “alone stood firm in our demand for complete independence” and this was “only accepted following Dame Laura Cox QC’s damning report”.

The consultation on the proposal will run until midnight on Sunday 8 March.