The three Commons staff bullied by John Bercow and what their complaints were

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Complaints made by three Commons officials formed the bedrock of the investigation into former speaker John Bercow, who has been found by an independent panel to be a “serial bully” and a liar.

Here is a look at the 21 complaints reviewed by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) and what each person suffered during Mr Bercow’s decade-long tenure in the speaker’s chair.

– Kate Emms

Kate Emms was appointed speaker’s secretary in June 2010, serving in that role until the following March.

She 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, in her review of the evidence, that three of the allegations should be upheld.

In a statement issued via the FDA, a union for senior civil servants, Ms Emms said the report published on Tuesday details the “impacts of the one and only genuinely horrible, undermining and consistently upsetting period of my career”.

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

Ms Emms, who still works in Parliament, described the “final straw” as being Mr Bercow’s “unspeakably self-serving account in his memoirs”, for which the Commons rebuked him, and sparked her into using the formal complaints process.

– 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.

Lord Lisvane – known as Sir Robert Rogers during his time in the job – 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.

Former clerk of the House of Commons, Lord Lisvane
Former clerk of the House of Commons Lord Lisvane (Atlantic Productions/PA)

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 and served under former speaker Michael Martin.

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”.

Mr Sinclair made seven allegations of bullying, having “adopted the practice of keeping contemporaneous notes” in five large Black n’ Red notebooks.

All three complainants worked with former speaker John Bercow in the House of Commons
All three complainants worked with former speaker John Bercow in the House of Commons (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

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”.

The IEP concluded that all 21 separate allegations were “proved and have been upheld” and said the Commons may feel that Mr Bercow’s conduct “brought the high office of Speaker into disrepute”.

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

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