Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Tory minister and shadow cabinet MP ‘accused of sexual misconduct’

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Three Conservative cabinet ministers and two Labor shadow cabinet ministers have been reported to a parliamentary watchdog dealing with complaints against MPs, it has been reported.

Three members of Boris Johnson’s team and two of Sir Keir Starmer’s are facing allegations of sexual misconduct The Sunday Times.

They are among 56 MPs referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) over about 70 separate complaints, it reported.

The allegations range from sexually inappropriate remarks to more serious misconduct, the newspaper said, with at least one complaint allegedly involving criminal behavior and an MP having “bribed a staff member in exchange for sexual favors”.

The ICGS was set up in 2018 as an independent process with bipartisan support in the wake of what became known as the Pestminster scandal, which spotlighted sexual harassment in the rooms and corridors of power.

It operates a hotline allowing those working in Westminster, including MPs’ staff and colleagues, to call to make a complaint or seek advice.

It consists of allowing workers to report experiences of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. You can also report witnessing or knowing of such behavior.

According to the panel’s 2021 annual report, the service was used by people posing as MPs.

In a statement on her website, ICGS director Jo Willows said the service was an “important step forward in tackling inappropriate behavior in our workplace.”

Allegations made to the ICGS are private and confidential and no information is given to political parties as to who has been reported.

A union representing senior civil servants said more needed to be done to stamp out harassment in Parliament.

Dave Penman, Secretary General of the FDA, said, “While some of the procedures for raising complaints have improved, the basic balance of power between MPs and the staff they employ has not changed.

“Where this exists, it will inevitably be exploited, either by those who lack the skills to effectively manage employees or by those with more malicious intentions.

“It therefore comes as no surprise that, unless there has been a fundamental change in the circumstances that made bullying and harassment possible, this number of complaints are being raised now that we at least have an independent mechanism to deal with them.”

“Parliamentary authorities need to address the root causes of bullying and harassment rather than simply relying on an enforcement mechanism that only protects those who feel able to make complaints.”

Mr Penman said this meant “looking again at the employment relationship between MPs and staff” to reform the 650 individual employer model.

He said authorities should instead consider introducing a new employment model that would “help protect staff while maintaining the level of service MPs need to support their vital work”.

A government spokesman said: “We take all allegations of this nature incredibly seriously and would encourage anyone with allegations to contact the relevant authorities.”

Downing Street and Labor said they could not comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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