Bullying and Harassment of MPS’ Parliamentary Staff

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:48 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady SNP Chief Whip 3:48 pm, 17th July 2019

Absolutely. That is not to say that everything there is perfect—I do not pretend for a minute that everything is perfect—but when the Scottish Parliament was set up 20 years ago, it was designed with a completely different culture in mind, and that has led to very noticeable differences.

Here at Westminster, we work hours that push everyone to the limits of tolerance. Massive uncertainties, even on quiet days such as this, as to exactly when things are going to finish only contributes to the stress and tensions. Perhaps it would help if we had fixed times for voting and if we were not locked into crowded rooms to vote, which again promotes hierarchy and literally divides us. None of it is massively surprising. Another report that ought to be factored into this discussion is Professor Sarah Childs’ “The Good Parliament”, which is in many ways about driving a wider cultural change. Perhaps if more of her recommendations were put in place, that would go a long way towards driving that change forward. None of these reports should be left to sit on the shelf; we all have a responsibility to drive them forward.

This is not and should not be a comfortable debate for any of us. Nobody is in a position to claim the moral high ground; if the dignity of any individual member of staff has been violated, in some way we are all diminished by that. Perhaps, on reflection, some of us will recognise our own behaviours, although hopefully not the more extreme examples and hopefully not things that are intentional. In the heat of the moment, in a stressful situation, we can forget our privilege and project our frustrations on to a member of staff or on to colleagues who are not really the cause of a problem. That is something I have taken away from the Valuing Everyone training which, as I said, I cannot recommend highly enough.

Since many of these accusations and reports of bullying, harassment and unacceptable behaviours first began to surface, there has been a strong and commendable consensus throughout this process. In the SNP, we want to continue to be part of that consensus, and I assure the House that we will happily support any and all efforts to implement the recommendations of the White report, and anything that we can do to drive change of the toxic and outdated culture and practices that are experienced in this place.