MPs accused of sexual harassment may only need to apologise to victims

Written by Kevin Schofield on 5 January 2018 in News

Labour MP Jess Philips said there was “not enough detail” about the sanctions

Houses of Parliament - Image credit: PA Images

Campaigners have hit out after it emerged that MPs accused of sexual harassment may only have to say sorry to their victims.

The recommended sanction in included in a draft report by a cross-party group set up after a wave of allegations in parliament in recent months.

The document, which was leaked yesterday, also suggests the establishment of an independent helpline for victims of harassment and appointing a specialist to investigate allegations independently.

According to the report, MPs found to have abused their position to prey on others may only have to make an apology or be sent to training unless new legislation is passed.

Sarah Green, a co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said it was "still clear that the whips will have a lot of power" over the process.

She told The Guardian: “If someone wanted to report an assault or harassment next week, it isn’t clear what response they could possibly get.

“The sanctions are not clear and it will have zero impact if they had a problem with a chairman in their local constituency, for example.

"It began with such urgency and the report was supposed to be out by the end of last year, but what it feels like now is there isn’t that urgency.

“It feels like resistance not willingness, like they are waiting for the issue to go away. But it isn’t going away."

Labour MP Jess Phillips, who sits on the cross-party group, told the paper: "The report is much better than what we have now, in terms of referral.

“There will be an independent sexual violence service in order for people to come forward in parliament.

"But there is not enough detail about what the sanctions will be.

“I still feel like power and politics and position matter more and unless there are firm sanctions in place this is meaningless.

“We need them to be serious. And ultimately there has to be a method of recall in order to sack MPs."

Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who chairs the group, said: "We all recognise the need to change the culture in Westminster.

“The working group will meet as soon as parliament returns to make further progress in creating an independent complaints procedure.

“In the meantime, interim support has been put in place by the House authorities."

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