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Tuesday 18th of December 2018 07:54 PM

House of Commons abuse cases ‘tolerated and concealed’

Probashbangla24 online Desk : “Disturbing” cases of bullying and sexual harassment have “long been tolerated and concealed” in the House of Commons, according to a report.
The report, by Dame Laura Cox QC, said there was a culture of “deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence”.
She said the procedures for protecting staff were inadequate and said “broad cultural change” was needed.
The inquiry was commissioned following a BBC investigation earlier this year.
‘Behaviour code’ could see MPs face sack
Dame Laura described the House of Commons as a “stark reminder of how bad things used to be”.
In her report, she detailed alleged sexual harassment by MPs, saying women reported being abused in “vulgar, gender-related terms” and “repeatedly propositioned”.
“There were reports too of groups of male MPs becoming increasingly boorish on occasions when they were together, of frequent sexual innuendos, lewd comments or sexual gestures, or women repeatedly being asked questions about their sex lives, or about their personal lives generally, which they found offensive and humiliating,” she added.
While some managers had dealt effectively with complaints from women, Dame Laura said the majority received “evasive responses, in which either their reports were questioned…or belittled” or they were persuaded not to pursue a complaint.
Dame Laura, a former high court judge, was appointed in March after a Newsnight investigation uncovered complaints about a number of MPs, including Speaker John Bercow, allegations which he denies.

John Bercow is asked in the Commons about bullying allegations against him

A separate “review of of historic allegations” is also under way, and in July MPs backed a new grievance procedure and behaviour code.
But in her report, Dame Laura said it was “difficult to envisage” how solutions could be delivered under the current senior House administration.
She warned against “another series of initiatives and process changes”.
Working in the Commons is seen as a “privilege” with an “expectation of loyalty to the institution they serve”, she said.
“But that sense of loyalty has been tested to breaking point by a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed.
“This is not to demonise the entire institution, but unacceptable behaviour by some, whether elected members or House staff, inflicts damage on everyone and undermines the legitimacy and authority of the House of Commons.”
A Commons spokesman said there was no place for bullying and harassment, adding that “the wellbeing of our people will always be our top priority”.
Urgent work has already been undertaken, including new confidential support services and helplines, he said, adding that the inquiry’s findings would be “taken into careful account”. BBC

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