Women's Equality Party calls for extension of recall mechanism and independent body to deal with Westminster harassment.
Published 18 December
The Women’s Equality Party is calling for a fully independent system to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and to recommend sanctions. That would be done either by extending the remit of the parliamentary commissioner on standards or by setting up a new body.
The Government should then amend the 2015 Recall of MPs Act so that constituents can remove any MP that the independent body rules to have committed sexual harassment.
The cross-party panel set up to respond to allegations of sexual harassment at Westminster is expected to bring forward proposals this week on how to deal with complaints.
Sophie Walker, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said:
“It has been almost two months since sexual harassment allegations were made against MPs. Since then, nothing has happened. In any other workplace, these men would be expected to stand down. And indeed, in many other industries where women have spoken out about harassment, men in senior positions have lost their jobs. But in Westminster no one has quit as an MP – even when they admit their behaviour has fallen short of expectations.
“It is obvious that inquiries by political parties into their own MPs are compromised because those investigating have an interest in finding against the accusers – and it is unclear what standard they are being judged against anyway.
“After the expenses scandal in 2009, an independent process was set up, dozens of MPs were forced out by their parties at the next election, and a recall mechanism was established to deal with those who cheat the system. The Government and Opposition must respond with the same seriousness now – otherwise they will be sending a message that fiddling expenses is more damaging to careers than harassing women.
“Legitimacy can only be achieved if an independent body, like the parliamentary commissioner for standards, is charged with investigating all of these complaints.
“In addition to any sanctions recommended by the independent investigation, it is vital that voters are given the power to take back control and recall MPs if they are found to have committed sexual harassment. Anything less will be seen as an attempt by the Government and Opposition to maintain the finely-balanced power dynamics in Parliament.
“Westminster has so far failed the victims of harassment. It fails them when ministers quit the Cabinet because of their behaviour but think they are still suitable to serve as MPs. It fails them every Wednesday when one of the accused is afforded the support of the Prime Minister while his accuser is traduced in the press. Now it must take them seriously."