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Indian-origin MP Keith Vaz accused of bullying parliament clerk in UK

Jenny McCullough, who was the clerk to the influential home affairs committee, alleged that Keith Vaz harangued her and told her she was poor at her job because “she was not a mother”.

world Updated: Aug 03, 2018 09:22 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Keith Vaz,Keith Vaz controversy,UK Parliament
Keith Vaz resigned from the committee in 2016 following a sting operation by a tabloid into his alleged hiring of male prostitutes.(File Photo)

Keith Vaz, thelongest-serving BritishMP of Indian-origin, has been accused by a former clerk in the House of Commons of bullying, a charge he strongly denied on Wednesday after the person went on BBC to narrate her difficulties while working with him.

Jenny McCullough, who was the clerk to the influentialhome affairs committee, of which Vaz was chairperson in 2008, alleged that he harangued her and told her she was poor at her job because “she was not a mother”. This was after she questioned his conduct during a taxpayer-funded trip to Russia.

Vaz resigned from the committee in 2016 following a sting operation by a tabloid into his alleged hiring of male prostitutes.

According to McCullough, after an “opulent” unscheduled dinner with unknown politicians during the trip, she raised concerns over who was paying for the event and was subjected to a “tirade” from Vaz in a hotel lobby in Kiev: “He told me that I wasn’t capable of serving the committee because I wasn’t a mother. All I knew was, it wasn’t normal to be harangued about my fertility status in the reception of a hotel room, at public expense, in front of my colleague on the team.”

She further alleged in the report by BBC Newsnight that Vaz, the long-standing Labour MP from Leicester East, subsequently subjected her to continued personal criticism and made jokes about whether she posed a security threat because of her Northern Irish background and accent.

The programme alleged that Vaz invited staff from an Indian restaurant in London which he frequented for a trip to Bangladesh. Newsnight claimed the committee clerks discovered that the men were joining the trip when they boarded the plane.

Vaz’s representatives said he could not recall whether any British Asian restaurateurs joined the trip, but said it would not be surprising because the committee’s remit included the issue of facilitating entry into the UK for individuals in the catering industry.

A representative responded to McCullough’s charges by saying: “No complaint or allegation of this nature has ever been brought to his attention. Our client had considered that he and Ms McCullough had previously had a good working relationship, and had always considered her to be very effective as a clerk. (Vaz) did not berate Ms McCullough at any stage, whether before, during or after the Russia trip, nor did he at any time insult her maternal status.”

The representative added, “Furthermore, our client finds the allegation that he would make insulting jokes about anyone on the basis of race extremely offensive (and) would never trivialise a person’s ethnic background.”

The House of Commons said in a statement: “We are aware that in the past the House has not had a robust process in place to deal with instances of bullying and harassment. We are confident that our new independent complaints and grievance policy will mean that allegations can be dealt with effectively and sensitively.”

First Published: Aug 03, 2018 08:21 IST