A newly-elected disabled MP is calling for action to address the bullying and harassment he has witnessed in the House of Commons, in a bid to introduce a new culture of “decorum and professionalism” into parliament.
Jared O’Mara has previously spoken to Disability News Service (DNS) about some of the access barriers he has faced in parliament since he defeated former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to win the Sheffield Hallam seat in June.
Now he is calling on the House of Commons to draw up a policy on bullying and harassment by MPs, and to carry out a regular access audit of the parliamentary estate.
Many disabled people were appalled when O’Mara – who is unable to stand for longer than five or 10 minutes – described earlier this month how he had been unable to attend a couple of debates in the main Commons chamber because there were no seats available.
But he has now told DNS that he wants the parliamentary authorities to introduce an anti-bullying and harassment policy that would prevent the kind of behaviour he has witnessed in the Commons chamber.
He said he had not been bullied or harassed directly, but had been affected by the comments and “jeering” directed against male MPs who have taken advantage of new rules allowing them not to wear ties.
The new rules are believed to have been introduced by the Commons speaker, John Bercow, after O’Mara made it clear he was unable to wear a buttoned shirt and tie because of his impairment.
All male MPs are now allowed to speak in the Commons chamber without wearing a tie, while O’Mara has also been allowed to wear a tee-shirt under a jacket.
But O’Mara said that comments made by the transport minister, John Hayes, who warned that he would refuse to take interventions from any male MPs who were not wearing ties, had made him feel “really upset and uncomfortable”.
He said he had taken these comments as “harassment”, even though they were not directed at him.
A spokesman for Hayes had failed to respond to a request for a comment by noon today (Thursday).
O’Mara said: “There has been other jeering when MPs have been not wearing a tie. It’s Neanderthal and bestial.”
He said he was also disturbed by the general “heckling and shouting” at fellow MPs that takes place in the Commons chamber during debates.
He said: “That comes under that umbrella of bullying and something I would like to take up, so people are more civilised while in the chamber and so they don’t make other people uncomfortable.”
He said that this kind of “very shrill, aggressive, intimidating environment” could cause problems for MPs who have