Staff Bullying and Harassment: Cox Recommendations

Oral Answers to Questions — House of Commons Commission – in the House of Commons on 9th May 2019.

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Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour)

What the timeframe is for the implementation of the recommendations made by Dame Laura Cox in her report on the bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

Dame Laura made three fundamental recommendations. In response to the first, the Commission immediately terminated the Respect and Valuing Others policies. In response to the second, the Commission has been considering options for the investigation of non-recent cases of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct and expects to put a final proposal to the House before the summer recess. In response to the third, the Commission has agreed the establishment of a working group to consider how the process of complaints against MPs could be made fully independent, and we are in the process of agreeing the membership. Finally, the House service has appointed an independent director of cultural transformation, to translate Dame Laura’s wide recommendations into tangible, meaningful and lasting change.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Labour)

I am grateful for the update. It is very important that the House is seen to be acting swiftly on this. Let us not forget that it is more than seven months since the report came out, and it is frankly damning that we are still talking about things happening in the future. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to get on with this and get the justice that victims deserve.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I can reassure him that the House of Commons Commission is considering these important recommendations at every meeting, but we have not made the progress that we should have done. These are complex issues, and we hope that the working group will be established soon, to process how to deal with complaints against MPs independently of Members of Parliament.

Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that response, but I want to push him a bit further. Underlying attitudes—sometimes misogynistic or deeply sexist attitudes—are frequently behind sexual harassment. What plans does the Commission have to implement training or awareness raising that targets people who are unlikely to take it up if they are not required to do so?

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Exiting the European Union)

The hon. Lady makes a valid point. She may be aware that training is being made available to staff, and I understand that a trial will be made available for Members. Although the Commission and I are not in a position to require Members of Parliament to attend those sessions, I think it is essential that they do.