From the moment Dame Laura Cox published her shocking report into the extent of bullying and sexual harassment in the House of Commons, we vowed to carry out root and branch reform of the way we behave.
Change is not an easy process – especially in a workplace that has operated in more or less the same way for over 700 years – but last night the House took a huge step towards overhauling our culture and improving our conduct.
Instead of allowing Members to judge the misdemeanours of their peers, the House voted to create an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) – free of MP involvement – to determine complaints of bullying or harassment against them.
Crucially, in cases where the IEP recommends the most extreme sanctions – such as suspension or expulsion of an MP – the House must approve that recommendation … without debate.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, chair of the House of Commons Commission, said: “This decision marks a historic shift in the way we work – but also means that all three of Dame Laura’s main recommendations have now been implemented.”
Dame Laura’s first recommendation – to scrap the previous complaints’ systems – was agreed almost immediately.
Her second, to open up the Independent Complaints and Grievance scheme to non-recent cases and to former members of the parliamentary community, took a little longer – and was agreed by the House in July 2019 before being rolled out in October.
It has taken us 20 months to reach this point, and some deep soul-searching along the way, but hopefully for all of us who work in the House of Commons, it marks a sea-change in the way we treat each other.
Sir Lindsay said Dame Laura’s report “showed deficiencies in the existing system and highlighted what needed to change”
“Of course, there will always be more we can do - but it is a testament to the efforts of our staff, and the determination of the House, that we now have a system the House can work to.
“Together with our ‘Valuing Everyone’ training, to ensure everyone working on the parliamentary estate is able to recognise and call out extreme and distressing behaviour - and the introduction of HR support for MPs’ staff - we have made great strides in creating a kinder, gentler, more courteous place of work.
“I would like, in particular, to say how grateful I am to all the staff who made this possible.”
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