Tory MP faces Commons suspension over ‘insincere’ apology for bullying

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Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski speaking in the House of Commons when he apologised “unreservedly” for his “bullying” behaviour towards parliamentary committee staff as he struggled with IT issues. (PA) (PA Archive)
Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski speaking in the House of Commons when he apologised “unreservedly” for his “bullying” behaviour towards parliamentary committee staff as he struggled with IT issues. (PA) (PA Archive)

Members of Parliament are expected to approve the one-day suspension of Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski in a vote on Wednesday.

Mr Kawczynski is facing suspension for “undermining” an apology he gave in the Commons for bullying staff.

The Commons Standards Committee earlier recommended that the MP should also make a further apology in the Commons after media interviews he gave appeared to call into doubt the sincerity of his initial apology.

Mr Kawczynski subsequently issued a lengthy statement via social media, apologising for commenting on the Commons disciplinary procedures which occurred at a time when he was in an “emotional and distressed state”.

The MP wrote: “I accept fully that I was wrong to comment about the disciplinary procedures and I accept unreservedly the findings of the committee.

“My comments to Radio Shropshire came at the end of a very difficult and painful period in my life which I now recognise was significantly affecting my mental health.

“I have apologised to my colleagues and I will never again seek to undermine or challenge in any way the rules and regulations of the House of Commons.

“A profoundly emotional and devastating family trauma in 2019, coupled with a series of work-related problems combined to affect my mental health in an unprecedented way.

“Issues such as the extraordinary polarisation and vilification during Brexit, constituency flooding in an overwhelmingly damaging and exceptional way plus the start of a national pandemic meant that I got to the stage that I was not going outside when I returned to Shrewsbury because of the abuse I was receiving in the street whenever I ventured out, even to just do some shopping”.

The MP concluded his written apology by saying that his mental health struggles should “not detract in any way from my full acceptance of the Committee’s decision”.

In its report, the committee said Mr Kawczynski had been required to apologise “unequivocally” for the earlier breach.

The Standards Committee said Daniel Kawczynski had ‘undermined the sincerity’ of his apology (PA) (PA Wire)
The Standards Committee said Daniel Kawczynski had ‘undermined the sincerity’ of his apology (PA) (PA Wire)

“Although he says he was sincere by the time he made the apology to the House, he had that morning effectively undermined the sincerity of that apology by broadcasting the fact that he was making it because he was required to do so and he disagreed with the way the case had been conducted,” the committee said.

“Mr Kawczynski also broke confidentiality requirements by speaking to Radio Shropshire about the content of the report before it was published and identifying complainants’ job descriptions on nine occasions in his radio interview.”

The MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham made his original apology in June last year after he was found to have breached rules on bullying and harassment following a complaint by Commons staff.

However, the same day he told an interviewer from BBC Radio Shropshire: “I have no alternative but to apologise because if I don’t apologise then I risk the option of being sanctioned further.”

An investigation by Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone found he also breached confidentiality rules by identifying the complainants through their job titles.

In its report, the committee said Mr Kawczynski’s conduct was particularly serious as it risked undermining the credibility of the independent complaints and grievances scheme for Commons staff which has only recently been established.

His contrition does not detract from the fact that his actions caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole

Standards Committee

Normally it would merit a more serious sanction but the committee acknowledged the mitigating circumstances cited by the MP, including his commitment to work on his “attitude and behaviour”.

It said: “We are persuaded that Mr Kawczynski has been making a sincere attempt to arrive at a better understanding of the roots of his poor behaviour and is genuinely committed to this personal ‘journey’ and to assisting others who may find themselves in the same situation as himself.

“Mr Kawczynski has demonstrated to us that he is contrite. He knows that he was foolish and wrong to speak to the journalists as he did.

“But his contrition does not detract from the fact that his actions caused significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole.”

Mr Kawczynski was a parliamentary neighbour and ally of Owen Paterson who quit last year as MP for North Shropshire after a botched attempt by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to get him off the hook when he was said to have broken rules banning paid lobbying by MPs.

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