John Bercow has “categorically” denied ever bullying anyone, criticised the peer who filed a complaint, and attacked the Government for not elevating him to the Lords after his retirement as Commons Speaker.
His first strenuous denial of the latest allegations came on Thursday as Downing Street said the claims from Lord Lisvane are “very concerning” and should be “investigated thoroughly”.
Mr Bercow’s one-time most senior official as Clerk of the House has handed a dossier of allegations to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
But the controversial former speaker dismissed the allegations as having come at a “curious” time as he seeks to become a peer.
Mr Bercow said that it has “become increasingly obvious that the Government has no intention of honouring the centuries-old convention that a departing speaker is promptly elevated to the House of Lords” since his retirement.
“Indeed, it has been suggested to me that the Government actively seeks to block any other attempt to nominate me for membership of the upper House,” he continued in the statement.
“I have seen in the media that Lord Lisvane is formally complaining that I bullied staff. For the record, I categorically deny that I have ever bullied anyone, anywhere at any time.”
Mr Bercow said Lord Lisvane, who he worked with for five years, had “ample opportunity to raise any concerns about such conduct with me” and moreover had “a duty of care to all House staff”.
“Therefore, he had not merely a right but a responsibility to act if he thought that he witnessed misconduct,” Mr Bercow said.
“The simple fact is that he did not at any time do so. Even though he frequently disagreed with me on a wide range of issues, he did not once complain to me and neither did any other official on his behalf.”
Though Mr Bercow disputed the claim, it was previously suggested in the Commons that Lord Lisvane may have left his role in 2014 in part because he was told to “f*** off” by the speaker at least once.
Allegations surfaced in 2018 of Mr Bercow bullying two former private secretaries, Angus Sinclair and Kate Emms. Mr Sinclair accused the speaker of “over-the-top anger”, shouting, swearing and intimidation.
The fresh dossier was reported by The Times to contain allegations of Mr Bercow having bullied and humiliated staff, including using inappropriate language.
Downing Street insiders did little to play down his claim that Boris Johnson’s administration was blocking his elevation to the Lords, pointing out that as speaker Mr Bercow was “not always a fan of convention” – a reference to innovative mechanisms used to thwart the Government during bitter Brexit battles.
A Number 10 spokesman simply said: “Who the Prime Minister chooses to nominate is a matter for the Prime Minister.”
Outgoing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has reportedly been lining up Mr Bercow, who was a Tory MP before becoming speaker, for a peerage.
But there have been suggestions that Downing Street could hamper the move, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman highlighting the “long-standing convention” that opposition leaders nominate individuals from their own parties.
On Thursday, the spokesman added: “These are very concerning allegations and they need to be investigated thoroughly.
“There can be no place for bullying or abuse in Westminster or any workplace and it is important that the parliamentary leadership responds fully and promptly to any concerns which are raised.”
Mr Bercow left the speaker’s chair on October 31 and has been replaced by Sir Lindsay Hoyle.