John Bercow: Sir Lindsay Hoyle's predecesor found to have bullied staff

Former House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has been found guilty of being a “serial bully and a liar”.

By Emma Downey
Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 10:17 am

Complaints made by three Commons officials formed the bedrock of the investigation into the former speaker who was found guilty by an independent panel.

Here is a look at the 21 complaints reviewed by the Independent Expert Panel.

Kate Emms.

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Mr Bercow has denied any wrong doing

The Speaker’s Secretary in June 2010 until the following March made seven allegations of bullying and harassment in relation to that time.

An independent investigator recommended that one of those complaints should be upheld, but, on July 2021, Commons Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone concluded that three of the allegations should be upheld.

The Commissioner found that former Conservative MP Mr Bercow “shouted at and mimicked Ms Emms, created ‘an intimidating and hostile environment’, and was responsible for ‘intimidating, insulting behaviour involving an abuse of power’ towards her”.

Ms Emms has said she suffered “stress, anxiety and loss of confidence” as a result of the “intense period of bullying inflicted”.

Lord Lisvane

The crossbench peer joined the House of Commons Service in 1972, rising to the top job of Clerk of the House – a role that saw him work closely with Mr Bercow – in October 2011 and serving until August 2014.

He made 18 allegations of bullying and/or harassment against the former speaker, all arising from his time as clerk, during which period he kept a diary on his computer.

The investigator recommended that nine of the allegations should be upheld.

However, Ms Stone ruled in November 2021 that 14 complaints of bullying should be upheld on the evidence, and in addition held that two of the complaints should give rise to findings of harassment.

The standards tsar found Mr Bercow had “subjected Lord Lisvane to ‘a sustained course of conduct that involved repeated unfounded criticism of the complainant both publicly and privately and included derogatory inferences about (his) upbringing and background’”.

However, Mr Bercow, in his appeal against a complaint Lord Lisvane made in relation to an encounter after a meeting about diversity in 2012, said the allegation ought to be found on “a fiction shelf at Waterstones”, according to the IEP report.

Angus Sinclair

The former naval captain was appointed as the Speaker’s Secretary in July 2005.

He was in the role when Mr Bercow took up office in June 2009 until retiring 12 months later, although the IEP report said he was “in effect, dismissed”.

He made seven allegations of bullying, having “adopted the practice of keeping contemporaneous notes” in five large notebooks.

Commissioner Ms Stone agreed with the report of an independent investigator reviewing his allegations that four of the claims should be upheld.

One of the complaints centred on Mr Sinclair alleging that Mr Bercow called him “f****** stupid” and used other foul language to express his dissatisfaction with the handling of a press inquiry in June 2009.

Ms Stone found that Mr Bercow “displayed ‘intimidatory’ and ‘undermining behaviour’, and ‘threatening conduct’ towards Mr Sinclair, including verbal abuse, displays of anger, and seeking to humiliate him in front of others”.

Mr Bercow stood down as speaker in 2019 and was replaced by Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

He has denied being a "serial bully" and said the investigation was a "stitch up".