Daniel Kawczynski: MP was 'tipped over the edge' before 'terrible mistake'

Daniel Kawczynski's upcoming suspension from Parliament is the result of "naive" comments which were a "terrible mistake" and made him "look and sound ridiculous", according to the MP.

MP Daniel Kawczynski is to be suspended from the House of Commons for one day
MP Daniel Kawczynski is to be suspended from the House of Commons for one day

The MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham faces a one-day suspension from the House of Commons over his second standards breach in seven months.

The Conservative was found to have undermined the sincerity of his apology for bullying Commons staff by giving a radio interview where he said: "I have no alternative but to apologise because if I don’t apologise then I risk the option of being sanctioned further.”

Mr Kawczynski also faced criticism from the Labour Party last month over allegations he hosted a Saudi Arabian businessman in parliament while hoping to secure a second job.

However the commissioner's office has confirmed it is not investigating the Shrewsbury MP over the incident.

He is not the only county politician found to have broken parliamentary rules, with former North Shropshire Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, resigning last year after the Government caused uproar with a bungled effort to clear him following a standards committee ruling that he had breached lobbying rules.

Boris Johnson initially backed an attempt to change the standards process before backing down, meaning the existing system remains and the Commons will vote on whether or not Mr Kawczynski is suspended.

Unlike Mr Paterson the Shrewsbury MP, who has represented the area since 2005, has said he accepts the punishment "unreservedly" meaning it is likely to be approved with little fuss.

The first investigation began back in 2020 after Mr Kawczynski acted in a "threatening and intimidating manner" towards parliamentary staff after drinking a "significant" amount of alcohol. After a failed appeal, in June 2021 he was ordered to apologise having been found to have breached bullying rules. It was hours before the Commons apology that he admitted on radio that he was only saying sorry out of necessity.

During the investigation into his comments regarding the apology Mr Kawczynski said he was “ambushed” by the radio journalist and made his statements while "completely thrown off guard and discombobulated".

He said the comments were also partly a naive attempt to "justify myself to my electorate".

Giving evidence to the commissioner he said that part of his anger had been that the information about his case had been leaked – with the radio journalist calling him to question him on the matter before it was public.

The committee has been unable to determine the source of the leak, but has cleared Mr Kawczynski of any involvement.

He said he felt "betrayed" at the situation and that it had "tipped me over the edge".

He said: "This was the day. I remember waking up and thinking, “Right, go to St. James’s Park, clear your head, get yourself ready, make the apology and move on.

"I was very pent up. To all of a sudden receive a call from the local journalist, saying, 'What’s this about you bullying House of Commons staff?' – I felt very betrayed and frustrated, really let down and hurt. Somebody within the House of Commons, and we all subscribe to creating the most optimal, transparent, professional approach – somebody, somewhere out there re-leaked that information, and I felt very betrayed by that. I am a Catholic and I will swear to God that it was not me. That is what tipped me over the edge."

He also told the commissioner that the prospect of people in Shrewsbury finding out he had been found to have bullied staff was a "very painful thing to countenance".

He said: "When you make an apology on the floor of the House of Commons, it is like opening a can of worms – everyone in your constituency and your association, everybody, suddenly knows and realises that you have been accused and convicted of bullying. That is a very painful thing to countenance."

He also described the interview as a "terrible mistake".

He said: "Having been going through this system for nearly two years, I respect it, I understand why it is in place and I support its ongoing work and deliberations. I made a terrible mistake predicated on my very vulnerable state of mind at the time."

He added: "I was trying, naively, to justify myself to my electorate, but all I did was to make myself look and sound ridiculous, extending the agony."

The committee found that Mr Kawczynski's actions had undermined his apology, had identified the members of staff who he had been found to have bullied, and he had also undermined parliament's Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) through his comments.

The conclusion from the report says there is a concern that Mr Kawczynski's actions could deter others from making complaints.

It states: "Mr Kawczynski’s misconduct in speaking to the media as he did on June 14, 2021 was particularly serious, as it risked undermining the credibility of the ICGS and the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), both of which are still relatively new.

"It risked causing further harm to the complainants and discouraging legitimate potential complainants, who might be concerned that their confidentiality would be compromised.

"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."

Were it not for mitigating circumstances, Mr Kawczynski would be facing a longer suspension from Parliament. He must also offer a new apology in the House of Commons which will be approved by the Speaker and Chris Bryant, the chair of the Standards Committee.

In the apology, Mr Kawczynski must:

  • Apologise to the parliamentary staff he originally bullied, without identifying them, and apologise to the Standards Commissioner. He must also apologise to the chair of the Independent Expert Panel, who originally ordered him to apologise in the Commons, and promise to write to each of them.

  • Admit that his conduct taken on its own warranted a longer suspension.

  • Acknowledge how his behaviour will have impacted the victims and damaged the Commons' bullying policy and reputation.

  • Commit to an improved attitude and behaviour and invite other MPs to learn from his experience.

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