I am sure none of us thought we would be surprised to read Gemma White’s report, given that there were reports of bullying and harassment of MPs’ staff in the press as far back as November 2017, but even though we knew there was a problem, the report has been no less shocking. It is shocking to know that in the place where I work, some staff have been and are still being subjected to an
“unacceptable risk of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, at work” from their employers. Those employers are Members of Parliament, not some backstreet employer. They are people elected by this country to lead, not to have an attitude to staff that belongs to a bygone era.
No one reading the report could fail to be moved by the testimonies of those who have suffered at the hands of some of our colleagues. Like many others who have spoken today, I want to pay tribute to the former and current members of staff who have been brave enough to come forward and participate in this inquiry. I am sure that their stories were not easy to share, and I want to assure them that I and others will listen to what they have to say and do our best to put in place measures to ensure that those in the future do not go through what they have gone through. I want to read out the words of some of those members of staff. One talked about an MP who
“would intimidate, mock and undermine me every day”.
“After I resigned I suffered a breakdown which I have never recovered from”.
“My entire sense of self was crushed, and by the end, I felt incapable and incompetent”.
No one should be made to feel that way when they go to work.
Grown men and women have been shouted at, sworn at, belittled and humiliated. Some have been relentlessly picked on, day in and day out, and worn down by the drip-drip nature of the abuse that they have suffered. Others have been the victims of unwanted sexual advances or banter. This is nothing short of sickening. It might not be something that many Members have personally been on the receiving end of, but we all know people who have received appalling treatment at the hands of their employer. These are people who wake up each morning with a knot in their stomach, or worse, because they do not know what they will face when they go into work. However, they know that what they will face will be unpleasant, harrowing and debilitating.
Staff are already expressing their concern that the number of Members here today does not send out the right message about the importance that we should place on the way in which our staff are treated in this place. This has happened right here under our noses in these buildings, in the corridors and the offices. It is like something from a bygone era: staff feeling bullied and abused and, most importantly, feeling powerless to do anything about it. Talk to any member of staff and they will almost certainly know someone who has been involved in such issues. Unsurprisingly, that will have had a detrimental effect on them, with some becoming too anxious or ill to work. Some have been forced to resign, often following a period of sick leave, and some have been sacked. Some have left Parliament altogether with promising careers ruined while the perpetrators get off scot-free.