Speaker faces pressure over bullying claims

Speaker John Bercow's conduct could be raised in the Commons after an urgent question was tabled following claims of bullying of House staff by MPs.

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas has tabled the application for an urgent question in the Commons after BBC Two's Newsnight carried a report into the alleged bullying of women officials responsible for running the business of the House.

The move puts Mr Bercow - who was one of three MPs named in the report - in a potentially difficult position as he would normally decide whether to grant her question.

Separately, critics of the Speaker are also considering whether to table a Commons early-day motion calling for an inquiry into the allegations.

Such a move would not normally result in a formal debate but could be a way to gauge support for any effort to oust the Speaker.

Tory Andrew Bridgen is understood to be in talks with Labour MPs about a possible cross-party motion.

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Ms Lucas is expected to ask Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom for an investigation and for the new independent complaints system announced last month to be extended.

Currently the complaints system only covers MPs' staff and not those - like the clerks - who are directly employed by the House.

Brighton Pavilion MP Ms Lucas said: "People working in Parliament should be able to work without fear of intimidation or bullying - and today I'm calling for every member of staff to be given the best possible protection.

"It's clear that all of those working in these buildings should be afforded equal protection - and I'm demanding that changes are made to urgently move all workers onto the new independent complaints and grievances procedure.

"It's also crucial that historic complaints of bullying are heard under the new procedures too - and that decisions on sanctions are not in the hands of MPs.

"Parliament must be a safe workplace - where there is zero tolerance of bullying and harassment.

"I hope the changes are made swiftly to end this discrepancy in protections of staff, and to best protect them in the future."

The Newsnight report included a claim that Mr Bercow shouted at and undermined his former private secretary Kate Emms, eventually leading to her being signed off sick.

Mr Bercow has denied the allegations against him, as have the two other MPs named by the programme - Labour's Paul Farrelly and Conservative Mark Pritchard.