UK

Overhaul bid for Commons as Tory Porn MP caps series of scandals

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arliament is facing a reckoning to improve its reputation after a senior Tory admitting he twice watched pornography in the Commons capped a series of scandals.

Neil Parish bowed to pressure to say he would resign as MP for Tiverton and Honiton after viewing the material in the chamber during a “moment of madness”.

The 65-year-old select committee chair, who is a farmer by trade, said he first accidentally viewed porn after looking at tractors online before later acting deliberately.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle is calling for “radical” reform to working practices after a series of bullying and sexual misconduct offences involving MPs.

Calling for urgent action, Sir Lindsay suggested staff should no longer be employed by the parliamentarians they work for to address a series of “serious allegations”.

He was considering moving to an outside body employing aides as Parliament’s reputation was feared to have hit a new low.

Writing in the Observer, Sir Lindsay said: “I believe it is time we reviewed our working practices, and particularly whether it is right that individual MPs are the employers of their staff. Should someone else – or an outside body – employ the staff, as long as the MP has the right to choose them?

“In my opinion, it is time to consider radical action, and review structures and processes that could make a difference. Some serious allegations have been made, and we must address them as a matter of urgency. It is imperative we do the right thing by staff and MPs as well.

“At the end of the day, I want to make sure that everyone feels they have support and somewhere to turn – and to make this house not only a safe and inclusive place to work, but a model for other legislatures.”

He is looking to establish a “Speaker’s conference” bringing together MPs to discuss changes.

Meanwhile, Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden reiterated a commitment from Boris Johnson to ensure half of Conservative candidates for the Commons are women.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Dowden said the Tories need to ensure their candidate list “reflects the fact that half the population are women”.

Around a quarter of Conservative candidates at the 2019 election were women, but Labour managed to ensure women represented more than half of its candidates.

Earlier this week, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries suggested ensuring “a majority of women” in Parliament could help tackle Westminster sleaze.

Mr Parish, who chairs the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, had been fighting to remain in the Commons after he was revealed to be the MP two colleagues reported having seen watching porn.

But on Saturday, the backbencher said he would resign as he recognised the “furore” and “damage” he was causing his family and his constituency in Devon.

Offering an explanation of his behaviour in an interview with BBC South West, Mr Parish said: “The situation was, funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at, so I did get into another website with sort of a very similar name and I watched it for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done.

“My crime, my most biggest crime, is that on another occasion I went in a second time, and that was deliberate.

“That was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber.”

His departure will pave the way for a by-election in the Tory safe seat, which was won by Mr Parish by more than 14,000 votes over Labour in 2019.

It was the latest in a series of damning developments that have dogged the Commons in recent weeks.

Three Cabinet ministers are among 56 MPs reportedly facing allegations of sexual misconduct that have been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.

Senior Labour MP Liam Byrne is set to be suspended from the Commons for two days for bullying a member of staff.

David Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn after allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use emerged.

Former Tory Imran Ahmad Khan was resigning after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.

Mr Parish still faces an investigation by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment.

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