Former Cabinet minister Sir Gavin Williamson should apologise to MPs and undergo training to change his behaviour after he was found to have bullied former chief whip Wendy Morton about his failure to be invited to the late Queen’s funeral.
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) said on Monday it had “considered carefully” whether Sir Gavin should face suspension from the Commons but had instead decided a “full and unreserved apology” was required.
The panel also said Sir Gavin should undertake “appropriate behaviour training” to increase his awareness of the impact of bullying on others.
The IEP’s report said Sir Gavin sent Ms Morton text messages after he did not receive an invitation to the funeral, which he attributed to his having not supported the then-prime minister Liz Truss in the recent leadership election.
The exchange concluded with him saying: “Well lets see how many more times you f*** us all over. There is a price for everything.”
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg had cleared Sir Gavin Williamson of the charge that his conduct amounted to bullying or harassment.
But the IEP upheld an appeal against the decision by former chief whip Wendy Morton.
The IEP’s report said Sir Gavin’s conduct “went beyond what is acceptable” and “went beyond ‘legitimate political debate’”.
“The respondent’s words in the texts were not only ‘rude and aggressive … offensive and intimidating’, as the commissioner rightly found, they were in the nature of a very personal attack on the complainant by way of threat.
“In the clearest terms, he was going to make her position difficult and frustrate her role as the newly appointed chief whip, all as revenge for his perception that she had denied him (and others) a ticket to the Queen’s funeral because he was not a prime minister Truss supporter.
“This was not just a party matter or a simple political difference. It was direct action by way of threat to her personally. And that is clearly how she felt it.”
He said he had decided to “step back from Government” while the complaints process into his conduct was carried out, vowing to “clear my name of any wrongdoing”.
Rishi Sunak said at the time he accepted his close ally’s resignation “with great sadness”.
This is a breaking news story. More to follow.