UK

Three Tory ministers and two shadow cabinet members ‘face allegations of sexual misconduct’

Three Conservative cabinet ministers and two Labour shadow cabinet ministers have been reported to a parliamentary watchdog that deals with complaints against MPs, it has been reported.

Three members of Boris Johnson‘s team and two from Sir Keir Starmer‘s are facing allegations of sexual misconduct, according to The Sunday Times.

They are among 56 MPs who have been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) in relation to about 70 separate complaints, it reported.

The allegations range from making sexually inappropriate comments to more serious wrongdoing, the paper said, with at least one complaint believed to involve criminality and an allegation that an MP “bribed a member of staff in return for sexual favours”.

The ICGS was set up as an independent process with cross-party backing in 2018 after the so-called Pestminster scandal, which saw the spotlight shone on sexual harassment in the rooms and corridors of power.

It operates a hotline allowing those who work in Westminster, including the staff of MPs and peers, to ring in to lodge a complaint or seek advice.

It exists to allow workers to report experiences of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. They can also report having been witness to, or aware of, such behaviour.

According to the body’s 2021 annual report, the service had been used by people stating they were MPs.

In a statement on its website, Jo Willows, the director of the ICGS said the service is an “important step forward in tackling inappropriate behaviour in our workplace”.

Allegations made to the ICGS are private and confidential and political parties are not given information about who has been reported.

A union representing senior civil servants said more was needed to be done to stamp out harassment in parliament.

FDA general secretary Dave Penman said: “Whilst some of the procedures for raising complaints have improved, the fundamental balance of power between MPs and the staff they employ has not.

“Where that exists it will inevitably be exploited, either by those who do not have the skills to manage staff effectively, or those with more malevolent intent.

“It can come as no surprise therefore that if the circumstances that allowed bullying and harassment to flourish have not changed fundamentally, what we are seeing is this number of complaints being raised now that we at least have an independent mechanism for dealing with them.

“Parliamentary authorities need to address the fundamental causes of bullying and harassment, rather than simply rely on an enforcement mechanism that only protects those who feel able to raise complaints.”

Mr Penman said that meant “looking again at the employment relationship between MPs and the staff”, with a view to reforming the model of having 650 individual employers.

He said authorities should instead consider establishing a new employment model that “will help protect staff whilst maintaining the level of service that MPs need to support their vital work”.

A government spokesperson said: “We take all allegations of this nature incredibly seriously and would encourage anyone with any allegations to come forward to the relevant authorities.”

Downing Street and Labour said they were unable to comment.

Additional reporting by PA

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