A Tory MP has been ordered to make a public apology for bullying staff in Parliament.
Daniel Kawczynski acted in a “threatening and intimidating manner” towards workers after a tech glitch meant he was unable to join a committee hearing.
According to an Independent Expert Panel (IEP) report, Mr Kawczynski was “repeatedly aggressive, rude and impatient” in calls made to the private mobile phone of one of the complainants.
The report said he “used extreme, although not profane language” – saying “this is a scandal, an outrage, this cannot be happening”; “this is a farce”; “you are useless”.
He threatened a formal complaint – and described the complainant as a member of the “snowflake generation”.
The report notes that it was not one response that sparked the complaint, but the “vehemence and repetition of the Respondent’s statements.”
They added: “It is agreed that he did not shout or swear, but the force and aggression he displayed were found to constitute bullying.”
The incident occurred in April 2020, as Parliament was adapting to new remote working during the coronavirus lockdown.
Later that evening, the report says Mr Kawcynski made “phone calls…to the complainants’ manager while under the influence of alcohol” – which the Commissioner concluded was “grossly unprofessional and a significant breach of Parliament’s Behavioural Code.”
The IEP, which determines appeals and sanctions in bullying cases, said Mr Kawczynski should apologise in the House.
Interviewing Mr Kawczynski during the investigation, the Commissioner found that “on several occasions…[Mr Kawczynski] showed a worrying lack of insight and contrition in relation to the appropriateness and impact of his behaviour.”
Mr Kawczynski, the report says, insisted he had been “perfectly reasonable” and said the Complainants had a “completely different narrative and understanding as to what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the workplace.”
The Commissioner found Mr Kawczynski had demonstrated an “inability to consider the perspective of others, and an indifference to the culture that Parliament is trying to achieve.”
Sir Stephen Irwin, chairman of the IEP, said: “We accept that the circumstances which arose on April 27 2020 were difficult.
“But they were difficult for everyone. Whilst we fully grasp that the life of an MP can be highly pressurised, these responsibilities and stresses do not justify a loss of courtesy, an exaggerated sense of importance or entitlement, or bullying.
“Our conclusion is that the determination of a requirement to make a public apology on the floor of the House is proper and proportionate.”
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “It’s entirely right that he should have to apologise.
“The PM is clear everyone working in parliament deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. There can be no place for bullying or abuse in Westminster or any workplace.”
Speaking to the Mirror, Mr Kawczynski insisted he had behaved “in a professional way” and been “measured” throughout.
“Strong? Yes. Critical? Yes. Forceful? Yes.
“But certainly measured, and undertaken in a professional way, with professional words and a professional tone of voice. That is the difference of opinion.”
He said: “I intend to apologise on the floor of the House, in the script that has been handed to me by the panel.”
He said the apology was “something I’m going to have to do.”
But he insisted this did not mean the apology was “with his fingers crossed behind my back”.
“It’s not the text I would have used. It’s the text they have obviously instructed me to say, with certain words that I have to say.”
“But if this whole process in the House of Commons deems it necessary for me to make an apology on the floor on the House of Commons…then clearly I have to abide by that decision, yes.”
Mr Kawczynski admitted he had consumed alcohol before the phone call to the complainant’s manager, but denied being drunk.
He said: “I would argue that I spoke to all the people involved in a professional way throughout the whole course of the day.
“Now, did I have one alcoholic beverage in my office in the afternoon because I was exasperated and exhausted by this process? Yes I did. But I did not have an excess of alcohol.
“I had one large glass of wine and that was it.
“And I certainly didn’t speak in any way which I could be perceived to have consumed an excess of alcohol.
“What I would say is I was certainly emotional at that time, and I certainly spoke very, very passionately and with conviction because I felt so badly let down.”
Mr Kawczynski said one thing he’d learned from the process is that “sometimes you just have to let go.”
He said: “I should have said ‘Lads, I can’t log on. I’m off.’ My mistake was to spend the whole day trying to log on.”
Asked if he had any regrets about his behaviour, Mr Kawczynski said the ensuing process had been “hugely beneficial” and “cathartic” to him.
He said it had led him to discuss the idea of “emotional intelligence” with a constituent – and that the pair are now writing a book together on the subject.
He said his behaviour had been influenced by the compound stresses of Brexit, the election, flooding in his constituency and Covid.
He said: “Of course, one was at that stage very, very psychologically tired, mentally exhausted.”
But Mr Kawczynski said he was “extremely concerned” that a separate Human Resources investigation into the incident – which he said had suggested no further action be taken – had been “overturned” by the panel, suggesting there was an agenda being pushed by the House of Commons that went over and above the rules of behaviour in a normal workplace.
And he suggested the House of Commons authorities had behaved “illegally” in sending the complaint to an IEP.
“Are we looking at all the illegal practices of what has happened? Yes we are. And are we potentially going to be exposing them and exposing what the House of Commons is doing, yes we are.”
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