Dame Laura Cox: Inquiry into Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment in Parliament
Dame Laura Cox has published her Independent Inquiry Report on The Bullying and Harassment of House of Commons Staff. She found:
“Amongst current and former staff alike there is an obvious pride and affection for the House and its status. Working there is, for many, a privilege – whether as a member of House staff or as an elected Member of Parliament - and there is an expectation of loyalty to the institution they serve. But that sense of loyalty has been tested to breaking point by a culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed.”
The Report calls for significant changes to practice and culture within the House of Commons. Specific recommendations include that there should be an independent mechanism empowered to impose sanctions on MPs in cases of misconduct; that historic complaints of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment should be open to investigation; and that the culture within the House of Commons must change from the top down.
Dame Laura accepted that women were especially affected by the macho and toxic culture within the House and that bullying had often been on gendered grounds.
Heather Williams QC, Louise Price and Angela Patrick represent the Centre for Women’s Justice (CWJ) and its clients, a group of women who are current and former employees of the House of Commons. Harriet Wistrich, Director of CWJ said:
“Dame Laura is clear that it is the women workers of Westminster who bear the brunt of its macho and toxic culture. Unchecked gendered bullying and harassment, sexual harassment and assault within the House of Commons is deeply damaging to public confidence in Parliament. It sends an unacceptable message about impunity for abuse and misconduct in the workplace to the detriment of women everywhere.
The decades-long failure to grapple with wrongdoing at the heart of our democracy has led to significant and long-term harm for the women affected.
We echo Dame Laura’s calls for urgent and determined action to make the Commons a safe and fair place to work. An early commitment to implementing each of her recommendations would be a start. It is long past time for the House to put its house in order.”