Politics

MP Liam Byrne to be suspended from Commons for bullying



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abour MP Liam Byrne should be suspended from the Commons for two days for a breach of Parliament’s bullying and harassment policy during Covid lockdown, according to an independent watchdog.

The Independent Expert Panel published a report on the conduct of Mr Byrne, a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

It stressed that following an investigation by an independent investigator, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld an allegation of bullying against Mr Byrne’s by a former member of his constituency staff made under Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).

The Commissioner concluded that the MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill had ostracised the complainant between March and July 2020.

The ostracisation followed a dispute between Mr Byrne and the complainant at the former’s constituency office, that had led him to send the complainant home.

Mr Byrne did not appeal the decision.

The IEP sub-panel considering sanction said that while Mr Byrne sought to present his actions as a reasonable HR strategy in response to this incident: “We disagree. It was bullying. He should, as he now accepts, have tackled any misconduct through a proper disciplinary process not by ostracising the complainant.

The sub-panel also concluded that this case involves a serious breach of the Bullying and Harassment Policy which arose from the respondent abusing his position of power and ostracising the complainant, who was his employee, by ceasing personal contact with him for several months and denying him access to his Parliamentary IT account.

The impact of this behaviour was compounded by the fact that it occurred during the first period of lockdown when the complainant was physically separated from work colleagues, uncertain of his future work status and had undergone a period of ill health, it added.

It recommended that Mr Byrne should be suspended from the House for two sitting days, on condition that he also make a written apology to the complainant; and undertake training and take action to address the causes of his behaviour and weaknesses in the management of his office.

Mr Byrne is said to have accepted the sub-panel’s decision.

In a statement, he apologised and said he was determined to learn a “valuable lesson” from the incident.

He said: “I am extremely grateful to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and to the Independent Expert Panel for their thorough investigation and careful judgement.

“I am very lucky to work with an amazing, happy team of people, who together have almost 40 years of combined service to my constituents in our Westminster and Hodge Hill offices where we’re determined to provide the best possible service and voice to what is the most income deprived constituency in England.

“However, two years ago at the beginning of lockdown, following a workplace dispute that led me to send the complainant home, as the Panel notes in para 3.24, I did not resolve the dispute correctly with a proper disciplinary process, and having nevertheless extended the Complainant’s contract, thereby failed to fulfill my obligations as an employer and Parliament’s Behaviour Code.”

He added: “This constituted an ostracism which was a breach of Parliament’s Behaviour Code which I strongly support, and caused distress for which I am profoundly sorry. I have apologised in full to the individual concerned.”

“I’m incredibly grateful to the Panel for recognising the genuine remorse I felt about the impact on the individual concerned, the steps I have already taken to ensure this never happens again along with the work still to do, and for concluding that I did not deliberately act to delay the investigation. This has been a valuable lesson for me and one I am determined to learn as me and my team seek to offer the best possible service and voice for the residents of Hodge Hill.”

The former Labour Treasury minister left the notorious “there’s no money” note in the Treasury after the party lost the 2010 general election. He later said “every day I have burnt with the shame” of having left the note, which he described as “stupid” and “offensive”.

After he was appointed a Cabinet Office minister in 2008, Mr Byrne reportedly issued a long list of demands to civil servants including with regards to coffee and lunch: “I’m addicted to coffee. I like a cappuccino when I come in, an espresso at 3pm and soup at 12.30-1pm.”



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