Andrea Leadsom urges John Bercow to step down from role overseeing bullying inquiries

Written by John Johnston on 3 December 2018 in News

Commons leader said Bercow should no longer chair House of Commons Commission after an inquiry into harassment called for him to quit

Image credit: PA

Andrea Leadsom has urged John Bercow to step down from his role overseeing Parliament's bullying inquiries.

The Commons leader said Bercow should no longer chair the House of Commons Commission, which has responsibility for supervising bullying investigations, after an inquiry into harassment called for him to quit.

The inquiry, led by Dame Laura Cox, suggested the Speaker should step down amid wider management changes and accused parliamentary bosses of allowing a “disturbing” culture of abuse to develop in Westminster, which was "actively” covered up.

Bercow - who has served as Speaker since 2009 - has reportedly told friends he will stand aside in either June or July.

Speaking at Liverpool John Moores University on Thursday night, Leadsom said the Commons should have “a chairman who can ultimately combine the authority and the accountability that should be demonstrated in the governance of the seat of our democracy.

“Currently, statute requires that the chair of the House of Commons Commission is the Speaker of the House.

“Yet, the Speaker of the House is there to serve the Chamber first and foremost, and to be a figurehead for the broader organisation.

“The role of the Speaker is to hold one of the highest offices in the land, presiding over debates, managing the chamber and ensuring political impartiality.

“It is a stretch to imagine that the highest office within the seat of our democracy should also be responsible for determining the opening hours of our cafeterias.”

She added: “When the public expressed outrage over the President’s Club scandal, the chairman resigned and the charity shut down. But where does the buck stop in our Parliament, in our political world, in our democracy.

“In the 18 months I have been in this job, it has become apparent to me that - when it comes to the way the House itself runs - there are some serious questions to be answered.”

And she called for a wider shake-up of the Commission’s membership by allowing all staff working in the Commons the right to join.

She said: “The House of Commons Commission provides the board-level oversight of everything from the maintenance of an ancient building to staff pay, and even whether the WiFi is working. My grave concern is that there is a massive disconnect between authority and accountability.”

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