Westminster sexual harassment report falls short, say staff and MPs

Submitted by SJW on 16 January, 2018 - 7:17 Author: Gemma Short

A delayed report into tackling sexual harassment in Westminster will be debate by MPs on Tuesday 16 January (as Solidarity goes to press).

Proposals from the report, which was due to be published before Christmas but was delayed, have been leaked. The proposals leaked include establishing an independent helpline and appointing a specialist to investigate allegations independently. The report apparently mentions sanctions but suggests that in the short term these would only include making apologies or being sent to training — concluding that new legislation would be needed for other sanctions to be applied.

On 9 January it was announced that two new clauses had been added to the ministerial code of conduct as well. One is the so-called ″Priti Patel clause″ and not to do with sexual harassment. The other has been dubbed the ″Damian Green clause″ says that ministers must be “professional” in all their dealings and treat all people with “consideration and respect”, and that they risk losing their jobs for any “inappropriate behaviour″, “wherever it takes place”.

At the time of the majority of the revelations in November 2017, a significant number of MPs were accused. A spreadsheet compiled by Tory whips detailing the sexual conduct of 36 Tory MPs had also been leaked to the press. A very small number of these allegations have resulted in action being taken. Some, like those against Kelvin Hopkins MP, are still being investigated. Largely they have been quietly swept under the carpet.

In a statement the Unite the Union Parliamentary Branch said of the working group′s initial proposals that ″the progress so far is insufficient to end the culture of bullying and sexual harassment that we are all too aware exists within our working environment.

″It is our particular concern that staff reporting sexual harassment have still not been given access to an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate, which has instead been flagged up as a long term aspiration.″

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