Three Conservative cabinet ministers and two Labor shadow cabinet ministers have been flagged to a parliamentary watchdog which handles complaints against MPs, it has been learned. The Sunday Times said all three members of Boris Johnson’s team and two of Sir Keir Starmer were facing allegations of sexual misconduct.
They are among 56 MPs who have been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance System (ICGS) in relation to around 70 separate complaints, he reported. The allegations among the 56 range from sexually inappropriate comments to more serious wrongdoing, according to the newspaper, with at least one complaint suspected of involving criminality and an allegation that an MP ‘bribed a member of staff in exchange for favors sexual”.
The ICGS was set up as an independent process with all-party support in 2018 after the so-called Pestminster scandal, which shone a spotlight on sexual harassment in the halls and corridors of power. It runs a hotline for those working at Westminster, including MPs’ and Peers’ staff, to telephone to lodge a complaint or seek advice.
According to the body’s 2021 annual report, the service had been used by people claiming to be MPs. It exists for workers to report experiences of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.
They can also declare having witnessed or having knowledge of such behavior. In a statement on its website, Jo Willows, the director of ICGS, said the service is an “important step forward in tackling inappropriate behavior in our workplace”.
Allegations made to ICGS are private and confidential and political parties do not receive any information about who has been reported. A union representing senior civil servants said more needed to be done to stamp out harassment in parliament.
FDA Secretary General Dave Penman said: “While some of the complaint procedures have improved, the fundamental balance of power between MPs and the staff they employ has not improved. Where it does exist, it will inevitably be exploited, either by those without the skills to effectively manage personnel, or by those with more malicious intent.
“It is therefore not surprising that while the circumstances which have allowed bullying and harassment to thrive have not fundamentally changed, what we are seeing is this number of complaints being raised now that we have at least an independent mechanism to deal with them. Parliamentary authorities must address the root causes of bullying and harassment, rather than simply relying on an enforcement mechanism that only protects those who feel able to complain.
Mr Penman said this meant “reviewing the employment relationship between MPs and staff”, with a view to reforming the 650 individual employer model. He said authorities should instead consider establishing a new employment model that will “help protect staff while maintaining the level of service MPs need to support their vital work”.
A government spokesperson said: “We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously and encourage anyone with allegations to come forward to the appropriate authorities.” It comes after Imran Ahmad Khan resigned as MP for Wakefield last week after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager before being elected for the Conservative Party.
Meanwhile, David Warburton has had the Tory whip removed after an image was published which appeared to show the MP for Somerton and Frome pictured next to lines of a white substance. Earlier this month, The Sunday Times reported that two women had made formal complaints to the ICGS about Mr Warburton’s behavior and a third woman had also made allegations about his conduct.
Downing Street and Labor said they were unable to comment.
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