Keith Vaz, the former Labour minister, has been reprimanded and faces a ban from the Parliamentary estate after being found to have engaged in “sustained and unpleasant bullying” towards a parliamentary member of staff, an official report has concluded.
The ex-MP for Leicester East was reprimanded over his conduct towards Jenny McCullough, a clerk on the home affairs committee, of which he was chair for nine years.
In a report released on Thursday the independent expert panel (IEP) recommended he never be given a pass for the parliamentary estate, usually given to ex-parliamentarians, because of his behaviour.
The panel chair, Sir Stephen Irwin, said Vaz was guilty of “sustained and unpleasant bullying, with a real and enduring psychological impact” that ended McCullough’s career.
"[Vaz’s] conduct to the complainant was hostile, sustained, harmful and unworthy of a member of parliament. He should be ashamed of his behaviour," Egli ha detto.
The 64-year-old former Europe minister, who was in the Commons for more than 30 anni, declined to cooperate with the investigation, claiming he was too ill.
The findings represent another low point for Vaz, who was once a powerful figure in the Labour party under Tony Blair’s leadership and was well connected to Asian donors to the party.
They could also end his ambitions to return to the party as an MP. The Labour MP who succeeded him in Leicester East, Claudia Webbe, is due to face trial for harassment later this month – a charge she vehemently denies.
Vaz stood down from parliament at the 2019 elezione, having been handed a six-month suspension from the Commons after he was caught offering to buy class A drugs for male sex workers.
The Sunday Mirror reported in September 2016 that Vaz, posing as an industrial washing machine salesman called Jim, invited the sex workers into his flat and offered to pay for cocaine for another man to use.
The former Europe minister was found by the House of Commons standards committee previously to have committed a “very serious breach” of code of conduct for MPs.
Thursday’s report said McCullough worked with him on the committee in 2007-08 and complained in 2019. The complaints related to bulling in the autumn of 2007 and the winter of 2010, when she worked in another part of parliament.
The investigation found six periods of bullying that worked to “rob her of confidence in her judgment and abilities, so that ultimately she felt compelled to leave her work in the House of Commons in 2011”.
Vaz was found to have mocked her Northern Irish heritage on a trip to the US, and took other staff on a visit to Russia because she was “not competent”.
The report said he also threatened to show pictures of McCullough drinking on the Russia trip to her manager, to “suggest she was liable to drink to excess so as to affect her performance”. The report said there was “no substance” to this claim.
On another occasion he criticised her ability to work effectively for the committee because she “wasn’t a mother”. On another, he told her she reminded him of a prostitute.
Summarising its findings, the committee said: ‘We consider that this misconduct represented sustained and unpleasant bullying, with a real and enduring psychological impact. It was hostile and harmful behaviour.”
A subpanel of the independent expert panel was appointed to determine the sanction to be imposed.
The subpanel concluded that if Vaz currently held a Commons pass as a former MP it would have been appropriate to remove it. It added that his eligibility to hold a former member’s pass should never be restored.
Responding to the inquiry’s findings, the head of the FDA union, Dave Penman, said McCullough had shone a light on reprehensible conduct and the inability of both parliament and political parties to address these issues.
“This conduct would have been visible to fellow MPs, whips and senior managers in parliament. The unwillingness of parliament to address these issues before now should weigh heavy on all who had the opportunity and power to address them at the time. It’s clear that an independent process was – and remains – necessary to ensure this kind of behaviour does not go unchallenged," Egli ha detto.
Vaz did not respond to a request for a comment.