Speaker Hoyle would allow Commons breastfeeding and declares bullying over

Sir Lindsay Hoyle has said Parliament’s “bullying culture is over” as he called for a kinder Commons where he would allow breastfeeding in the chamber.

The Commons Speaker’s comments on Thursday came after fresh bullying allegations mounted against his predecessor, John Bercow, as he seeks to be elevated to the House of Lords.

Mr Bercow, who stood down on October 31, denies all allegations of bullying, but has had two dossiers detailing allegations against him handed over during recent days.

John Bercow is being accused of bullying (Ian West/PA)
John Bercow is being accused of bullying (Ian West/PA)

The new Commons Speaker said during a speech at a Press Gallery lunch in Parliament that “MPs haven’t always been the best employers of their staff”, as he backed trade union recognition of staff.

“I think people reflected on the way the chamber carried out, the way we were speaking to each other, the threats, the intimidation, it was not a nice place,” he said.

“The bullying culture is over, we are not going to tolerate it. And I’m certainly not going to tolerate people who abuse security staff who are carrying out their duties to make us safe.”

He said the best recourse for the row between ministers and Mr Bercow, who has accused the Government for preventing his elevation to the Lords, would be for his name to be put forward for a peerage and let his past conduct be fully scrutinised.

Sir Lindsay, who served under Mr Bercow as his deputy, said he was “personally not” bullied by his predecessor, when questioned by journalists.

“Personally I can honestly say I didn’t witness it but I do speak to people who may or may not have been subjected,” he added.

“When somebody’s names goes forward to the Lord’s people are checked and issues are reviewed about whether they are a fit person.

“Part of that vetting will be looking into people’s conduct.”

Baroness Betty Boothroyd (Victoria Jones/PA)
Baroness Betty Boothroyd (Victoria Jones/PA)

Baroness Boothroyd ruled that breastfeeding was not allowed in the Commons chamber in 2000 when she was speaker.

But Sir Lindsay said he would not block breastfeeding when asked if he would allow it in the chamber or committee rooms.

“I’m of the view there isn’t a policy, my view is that it is up to a mother,” he said.

“I think it would be wrong for me as a male to dictate on that policy. If it happens, it happens. I wouldn’t be upset by it, let’s put it that way.”

Labour MP Harriet Harman, who ran against Sir Lindsay, was one of the first MPs to breastfeed her child in the Commons in the 1980s.

An independent review in 2016 recommended that breastfeeding should be permitted in the chamber, with MPs with children having to sit for hours listening for a debate.

Equal rights campaigners have called for breastfeeding in the Commons to tackle any taboo and to allow women MPs more flexibility with their work.

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