Speaker John Bercow could face ‘bullying’ probe under plans to end obscure misconduct rules

Parliamentary Commissioner Kathryn Stone announced that she will push to scrap obscure rules that currently allow MPs to block her from investigating allegations that relate to more than seven years ago.

Mr Bercow escaped an official probe into claims he bullied two ex-aides because the allegations preceded this seven-year deadline.

MPs on the Standards Committee used the obscure rule to block Ms Stone from launching an investigation.

Barely a month on, Ms Stone unveiled plans to change the rules — saying the current arrangements undermine confidence in the disciplinary procedure for MPs. The change would allow Ms Stone to open an official probe into claims by two of Mr Bercow’s former private secretaries that he physically intimidated them.

But the Commons watchdog’s plans could be blocked by MPs — because any changes must be approved by the Commons.

The plans sparked fresh calls for Mr Bercow to quit before a probe into his actions brings Parliament into disrepute.

Tory MP James Duddridge said: “This is a significant change that will mean allegations against the Speaker can now be investigated.

“It is ludicrous that Kathryn Stone couldn’t investigate previous allegations and was so easily blocked by a handful of MPs.

“Time is ticking on John Bercow and the man should go with what little dignity he has remaining.

“I’m confident an investigation by Kathryn Stone would rule against him so he should pull the parachute now.”

Her proposals were slipped out in the annual accounts of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Ms Stone wrote: “I believe it is time to review the requirement for the Commissioner to consult the Committee on Standards before beginning inquiries into allegations concerning events which occurred more than seven years earlier.

“If exceptions to the general time-limit are to be permitted, confidence in the independence of the system might be better served by allowing the Commissioner to decide the exceptions.

“Ultimately, this is a matter for the House itself to determine but I look forward to working with the Committee to review this.”

MPs welcomed the plans because they could lead to Mr Bercow’s alleged misconduct finally being probed.

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: “This shows that even the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards herself sees the inequity and injustice in the current system where for allegations dating back over seven years, MPs have the ability to block investigations into other MPs.

“This would be good for John Bercow, who claims he’s completely innocent of bullying or harassment – so he’ll have a chance to clear his name. Currently he’s under a cloud of historic allegations.”

Mr Bercow has strongly denied the bullying accusations against him.


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