MPs must act now over sex pest claims, demands leader of House

Prime Minister Theresa May listens as Andrea Leadsom responds to an urgent question in the House of

Prime Minister Theresa May listens as Andrea Leadsom responds to an urgent question in the House of Commons about allegations of inappropriate and unwanted sexual behaviour at Westminster. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

British politics risks being brought into disrepute unless a tough, new system to protect people working in Westminster is agreed, the leader of the House of Commons has warned.

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Addressing the House over a growing scandal about abuses of power by MPs Andrea Leadsom called on leaders to work together to bolster protection for the thousands of people working in the Palace and demanded action was needed 'in days rather than weeks'.

Ms Leadsom was speaking in response to an urgent question from Labour MP Harriet Harman following a rash of media reports about alleged misconduct by MPs, including international trade minister Mark Garnier, who is the subject of an internal inquiry by the Cabinet Office.

Ms Leadsom said: 'As MPs, our constituents will be rightly appalled at the thought that some representatives in Parliament may have acted in an entirely inappropriate way towards others.

'These reports risk bringing all of our offices into disrepute.'

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Speaking after the urgent question Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said: 'The PM has shown leadership in swiftly requesting a better way to support all staff who work in Parliament. It's what should be expected in any modern workplace.

'I've heard from many constituents whose children would look to MPs as role models – so sexual and sexist behaviour is not good enough.'

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Ms Leadsom said it was clear the 'current system is inadequate' and set out the proposed reforms.

She told MPs the government's guiding principles were:

• Everyone in Parliament should 'have the right to feel at ease as they go about their work'.

• The existing confidential helpline must be strengthened as a 'dedicated support team' with more resources.

• The support team should be able to recommend the onward referral of a case to ensure 'appropriate investigation and action'.

• Specialised pastoral support should be available to anyone in distress as a consequence of their treatment in the workplace.

• The support team should 'strongly recommend' that any criminal allegations are reported to the police.

She added: 'There may be further action which political parties themselves can take to ensure high standards.'

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