Senior House of Commons civil servant announces retirement

A senior House of Commons civil servant has announced he is to retire next year — one month after a devastating report into bullying and harassment in Westminster recommended a shake-up of the senior leadership team.

Sir David Natzler, who has served as Commons Clerk for the last four years, made public his plans to retire in March after 43 years working in Parliament.

Speaker John Bercow’s voice cracked as he read Sir David’s resignation letter to MPs and thanked the clerk for his “tireless and outstanding service”.

The announcement comes a month after Dame Laura Cox’s inquiry into bullying in Parliament which reported that necessary culture changes might be impossible “under the current senior House administration”.

Sir David’s resignation letter and Mr Bercow made clear, however, that the decision had been taken long before the report was published.

Sir David’s letter read: “It has been a turbulent four years, covering three Governments, two General Elections and two referendums, the murders of Jo Cox MP and Pc (Keith) Palmer, threats to our physical and cyber-security and the ebb and flow of launching restoration and renewal.

“The last 12 months have also of course seen the surfacing in various ways of the complex issue of bullying and harassment and sexual misconduct in the parliamentary community.

“I am confident that we can deal with it if we all acknowledge past failings, as I readily do, and move beyond concerns about process to reach a place where quite simply everybody in the community treats everybody else with respect and dignity and where if they do not they are called out and if necessary sanctioned.”

Sir David added that he could “not have been prouder” than to serve as Head of the House of Commons service, adding: “I am also glad over the past four years to have been able to visit a number of constituency offices around the country and see at first hand the public service provided by members’ staff.

“Members and their staff carry out their work in the face of spiteful abuse and threat and vilification. They deserve better.

“I am confident that the House will continue to thrive as a the central institution of our parliamentary democracy, cherishing the old while embracing the new and holding fast to the recognition that parliamentary service is in the truest sense a form of public service,” he added.

Breaking House of Commons convention, MPs clapped as the Speaker finished reading Sir David’s letter.

Mr Bercow added: “You’ve been an outstanding Clerk of the House, you have given dedicated and brilliant public service, I am grateful to you and everybody, I believe, in this place, is grateful to you.”