John Bercow 'to stand down as Commons Speaker next summer'

Jessica Elgot
John Bercow is to stand down as Speaker of the Commons next summer. Photograph: PA

The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has told friends he will stand down next summer, the BBC has reported, defying calls for him to resign immediately in the wake of an inquiry into bullying and harassment in Westminster.

The Speaker, who has denied accusations of bullying staff, had come under intense pressure from MPs after a damning report into Westminster’s workplace culture.

Bercow had originally promised to retire after nine years in office, which would have seen him depart in the summer of 2018 but he had expressed a desire to see out the Brexit process.

The Speaker had been keen to stress that he would stand down on his own terms. The Times reported in June (£) that Bercow had already begun making arrangements to move out of the Speaker’s house next summer in preparation for his departure.

A spokeswoman from the Speaker’s Office said Bercow had been elected for the duration of prliament and had not made any official announcement. “In the event he has anything to say on his future plans, he will make an announcement to the house first,” she said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bercow called for bullying complaints to be investigated by an inquiry “entirely independent of and external to parliament”.

“Independence and transparency are the best guarantors of a process which will both be fair and command general confidence,” he added.

Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities committee, and the departing chairman of the standards committee, Sir Kevin Barron, had said he should resign in the wake of Dame Laura Cox’s 155-page report, published on Monday.

Cox said there was a tradition of “deference and silence” that “actively sought to cover up abusive conduct” and gave no protection to those reporting bullying or sexual harassment.

“I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior house administration,” Cox said.

During an urgent question on Tuesday, several MPs criticised others for politicising the inquiry.

Conservative MPs who have long been critics of the Speaker spoke in the debate, including James Duddridge, who previously called for a vote of no confidence in Bercow because of his handling of Brexit. He said it was “a disturbing report of a number of unacceptable behaviours … How can we encourage Mr Speaker to stop this behaviour?”

The Green party MP, Caroline Lucas, said it was “not the time for members to indulge in bullying of their own; there should be independent processes, not innuendo”.

The Labour MP Jess Phillips said she was “totally and utterly maddened”, pointing at Duddridge, whom she called “neither right nor honourable”.

“Some of us don’t actually care who is the offender; it is the victims we care about and we will not use it for political gain,” she said. “And nothing fills the victims with more dread than when people play with their feelings. You are speaking only for yourself.

“I think the management of this place needs a massive overhaul, the fact of the matter is that nothing I have heard today fills me with confidence that politics will be taken out of this.”