Byrne accused of using parliamentary staff on West Midlands mayoral campaign, as Skwawkbox exclusively revealed
Blairite Labour MP Liam Byrne has been suspended from Parliament for two days for bullying a sick member of his staff. An independent panel found that Byrne’s decision to ‘ostracise’ the staffer after a falling-out at the office amounted to ‘malicious’ bullying. Labour has said it will implement the panel’s recommendations – the suspension, an apology and anti-bullying training – in full.
But Byrne, one of the founders of right-wing pressure group Progress, has also been under investigation after complaints by staff that he misused parliamentary resources by deploying publicly-funded parliamentary staff on his West Midlands mayoral campaign were exclusively revealed by Skwawkbox last summer.
One of Byrne’s staff – it is not clear whether this is the same staff member who was bullied – wrote to the party to complain that Byrne:
- owed the former staffer more than £11k in unpaid salary, leaving the employee working for a year below the legal minimum wage
- played arbitration service Acas and parliamentary standards body IPSA off against each other about the matter to avoid an employment tribunal deadline
- damaged at least one staff member’s mental health because of the stress of ‘containing’ the misuse of parliamentary resources
- told Acas that he had instructed IPSA to make the outstanding payment, but IPSA said no such instruction had been received and that they had been told the matter was with Acas
- made a partial payment in December but not in full, with the delay causing the deadline for tribunal action to be missed
- said in January that he now considers the staff’s overtime hours voluntary and therefore non-payable
According to a local Labour candidate, ‘half [Byrne’s] team’ had quit, leaving only parliamentary staff, who were being used full-time on the mayoral campaign. Mr Byrne did not respond to a request for comment at the time.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) announced in August that it was investigating Byrne, after another MP made a complaint about the allegations.
Bullying and use of parliamentary resources are not the only issues dogging Liam Byrne in recent years. The MP was publicly accused by the outgoing mayor of Sandwell borough in the West Midlands of being a ‘self-serving’ hypocrite. His mayoral selection literature also appeared to claim an endorsement by a local Labour group that the group had not given.
Byrne said he was ‘perplexed and mystified’ how the leaflet – which said in large print ‘Hall Green: “We’re voting Liam”‘ – could be read that way.
IPSA told Skwawkbox that its investigation of the allegations of misuse of parliamentary resources is still ongoing.
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