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Wednesday 09 March 2022

FDA welcomes decision to uphold 21 complaints of bullying and harassment against John Bercow

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Responding to the report of the Independent Expert Panel on the conduct of former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, FDA General Secretary Dave Penman said that the FDA welcomed the decision to uphold 21 complaints of bullying and harassment against the former Speaker made by former Speaker’s Secretary Kate Emms and her colleagues.

Penman went on to say that the FDA deplored “the way in which the former Speaker has flouted confidentiality rules in a number of media appearances – causing further unnecessary distress to the complainants and potentially undermining confidence in the process”.

Commending the courage shown by Kate Emms and her colleagues, Penman added: “This fully independent process, carried out over a period of eighteen months, has upheld the complaints against Mr. Bercow, and also addressed his repeated assertions around conspiracy among the complainants.”

In her own statement, released through the FDA, Emms said she was “supremely glad to be vindicated” by the report, describing the events as “the one and only genuinely horrible, undermining and consistently upsetting period” in her career.

Addressing John Bercow’s approach to the process, she said he “placed the blame on the people he bullied, accusing us of conspiring, colluding and lying out of sheer malice… All these threats, criticisms and evasions have been dismissed in this report in unambiguous terms.”

Speaking to Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio, Penman said he had rarely seen someone “with the lack of humanity that John Bercow has displayed” pointing out that there had been three independent elements to the process against him, and each one had concluded the same thing – “that on 21 occasions he was guilty of bullying staff”.

The General Secretary had earlier told John Pienaar on Times Radio that he had rarely “seen language so brutal” in a report of this kind – which found Bercow to be a “serial bully” and “serial liar” – or seen someone show such a lack of self-awareness when presented with the impact of their behaviour.

In an article for Times Red Box, Penman argued that the report proved that the fully independent process for dealing with these kinds of complaints at the House of Commons was “invaluable”:

“The investigation into John Bercow cements the true independence of the new process and will help to build much-needed confidence in the scheme.”

FDA National Officer for the House of Commons Jawad Raza subsequently strongly criticised plans to place a one-year time limit on bullying complaints made under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, telling Politico that it “risked undermining confidence”:

“We strongly oppose the introduction of a time limit for raising complaints of bullying and harassment against Members of Parliament.”

You can read the full statement from Kate Emms, issued by the FDA, here.

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