On 17 July 2019, there will be a general debate on Gemma White QC's Independent Inquiry Report on Bullying and Harassment of MP's Parliamentary Staff
1. Gemma White’s report
Gemma White QC’s report on bullying and harassment of past and present staff of Members of Parliament was published on 11 July 2019:
- Bullying and Harassment of MPs’ Parliamentary Staff – Independent Inquiry Report, 11 July 2019, HC 2206 2017-19
The House of Commons Commission issued a statement, thanking Gemma White for her report. The Commission will “look urgently” at her recommendations when it meets on 15 July 2019. It noted that it does not employ the staff of MPs. However, “the Commission takes very seriously its responsibility to ensure that Parliament is a modern workplace”. It noted progress that had been made in implementing the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
2. Background: bullying and harassment
In November 2017, allegations and accounts in the press of inappropriate behaviour and a culture of bullying and sexual harassment at Westminster led to the establishment of a cross-party Working Group on an Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy. The Working Group reported in February 2018. It recommended the development of a parliament-wide behaviour code and independent complaints and grievance schemes to respond to and manage complaints of (i) sexual harassment and (ii) bullying and harassment.
At the end of February 2018, the House of Commons agreed a motion endorsing the Working Group’s recommendations and asking the House of Commons Commission to authorise officials to undertake the work to implement those recommendations. The House also agreed that the Working Group should reconvene as a Steering Group and that the officials working on the Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy should report to the Steering Group.
2.1 Development of the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme
On 17 July 2018, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Policy (IGCP) Programme Team’s Delivery Report was published. It set out how the Programme Team, overseen by the steering group, has taken forward the House’s decision of 28 February 2018 to implement recommendations to develop a parliament-wide behaviour code and independent complaints and grievance schemes to respond to and manage complaints of (i) sexual harassment and (ii) bullying and harassment.
The Delivery Report included a proposed Behaviour Code; procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of bullying and harassment; procedures for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual harassment; and a system of training to support the Behaviour Code.
The House agreed that the ICGS should be reviewed after six months. On 28 January 2019, Alison Stanley was appointed by the House of Commons Commission to review of the first six months of the operation of the ICGS. Her report was published on 12 June 2019.
3. Inquiries into bullying and harassment
3.1 Laura Cox inquiry
Complaints about the behaviour of Members towards staff of the House were reported by Newsnight in March 2018. Following the first Newsnight report, the House of Commons Commission agreed to establish an independent inquiry into Bullying of Staff in the House of Commons. That inquiry was undertaken by Dame Laura Cox.
Dame Laura Cox’s report was published on 15 October 2018.
3.2 Establishment of the Gemma White inquiry
The resolution of the House that provided for the implementation of the ICGS, on 19 July 2018, also provided for “a further independent inquiry in similar terms be established, by the Clerk of the House in consultation with the relevant authorities in the House of Lords as appropriate, to consider allegations of bullying and harassment in respect of those individuals including MPs and their staff, where those allegations are not in scope of the Dame Laura Cox QC inquiry”.
On 6 November 2018, the inquiry was launched. The inquiry was undertaken by Gemma White QC. Her terms of reference were published on the same day.
A separate report by Naomi Ellenbogen QC, An Independent Inquiry into Bullying and Harassment in the House of Lords, was published on 10 July 2019.
The Library Briefing Paper on the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme includes further information on the establishment and development of the ICGS and the Cox Inquiry.