Activists from the Women’s Equality Party staged a protest in the Gallery of the House of Commons today, standing up during the debate on the Gemma White report wearing T-shirts bearing the question ‘WHY ARE THEY HERE?’ and the names of four MPs.
Kelvin Hopkins, Ivan Lewis and Charlie Elphicke have all been suspended from their parties while under investigation for allegations ranging from harassment to rape, while Mark Field has been suspended from his ministerial position while an investigation takes place into his aggression toward a protestor last month. Despite these ongoing investigations, the four MPs have been permitted to vote on a report into bullying and harassment.
In addition to the four MPs who are the subject of ongoing investigations, other MPs accused by staff members during the 2017 ‘Pestminster’ scandal have been cleared of a range of allegations after internal investigations conducted by their own parties. Today they were able to vote on whether independent investigations into historic allegations should be permitted.
“The fact that MPs who have not yet been cleared of harassment or violence have today been permitted to vote on a report specifically aimed at tackling harassment and bullying in the House is frankly outrageous. When you consider that these same men also have the power to vote on legislation intended to tackle violence against women and girls more broadly, including the upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, it should be clear that something needs to change.
“Some of these men have been in post for over 18 months, meeting with constituents and voting on our laws while facing extremely serious allegations. Our government cannot make a credible commitment to tackling violence against women and girls until it deals with these problems in its own ranks.” - says Korina Holmes, Women's Equality Party activist.
Last week the Gemma White report revealed that bullying and harassment remain rife in Westminster, while a previous report found that one in five people working there have experienced sexual harassment. This follows the Pestminster scandal, in which a total of 14 MPs faced accusations ranging from inappropriate text messages to harassment and rape.
The Women’s Equality Party welcomes Gemma White’s recommendations for an independent process to investigate allegations of harassment, and for provisions to allow historic allegations to be investigated.
Sign our petition to call for MPs to be fully suspended from their duties while under investigation and for changes to the 2015 Recall Act, to ensure MPs who are found guilty of violence or harassment can be recalled.