The British Parliament must take action to stop “seemingly endless” allegations of sexual harassment and harassment by MPs as political parties cannot be trusted when it comes to providing a safe place to work, two British MPs have condemned. main alliances. This comes just hours after the resignation of the economy and health ministers due to the prime minister’s handling of the scandal, which is a new government crisis.
After 10 Downing Street admitted that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was aware of the allegations against Chris Pincher before appointing him as Deputy Chief Whip, i.e. those tasked with enforcing party discipline, the FDA and Prospect unions say that politicians fail again and again when it comes to “the proper management of the sexual harassment of one of their own.”
The two unions, which include more than 1,000 parliamentary workers, have written a joint letter to House Speaker Lindsay Hoyle urging Parliament to take action in the aftermath of the Pincher scandal, who resigned last week after it was reported he groped two men while drunk. at a private club in London.
Pressure on Boris Johnson
Even before the resignation of his ministers, Johnson had been criticized for his handling of the Pincher case. A spokesman for the Conservative leader admitted on Monday that the prime minister was aware of the accusations against Pincher before placing him in charge of the welfare of his colleagues in February.
10 Downing Street said last week that the Prime Minister was not aware of any “specific” allegations against Pincher. He now admits that Johnson was aware of the allegations against him, which “were resolved or did not develop into a formal complaint.”
But on Monday, the BBC reported that Pincher had been investigated for sexual inappropriate behavior with a confirmed complaint while he was Secretary of State for Europe and the Americas (2019-2020) and that the prime minister had been briefed about it.
The Guardian on Friday asked a British government official if there were any allegations against Pincher of sexual harassment while he was secretary of state. The spokesman did not deny this, but did not confirm it either: “There is a formal procedure by which any employee can report inappropriate behavior; Until now, the policy has been not to comment on any issues related to individual cases.”
Shortly before the resignation of his ministers, Boris Johnson admitted his “mistake” in appointing Pincher and asked for “forgiveness”.
In his resignation letter, Health Minister Sajid Javid said he could not remain in Johnson’s government “in good conscience”. Minutes later, in a resignation letter, Economics Minister Rishi Sunak said that “the public rightly expects proper, competent and serious behavior from the government.”
Pincher denied other allegations following complaints about the incident at London’s Carlton Club. The episode joins five other sexual harassment scandals involving Conservative MPs from the current House of Commons as pressure builds on Johnson to do something about Conservative Party culture.
Participants include Neil Parish, who consumed pornography in the House of Commons; Imran Ahmad Khan, convicted of child sexual abuse; and David Warburton, who is currently under investigation by a parliamentary oversight body following three allegations of sexual misconduct with women (Warburton denies all three).
Last month, an unnamed Conservative MP was arrested on suspicion of rape and other sex offences. Conservative MP Rob Roberts was temporarily expelled from the party (while retaining his seat) after an independent investigation found he sexually harassed a subordinate.
Former Conservative whips told The Guardian that since 2017 Pincher has been known to drink too much from time to time and has been warned to stay out of trouble. In November 2017, he had to step down as whip after former Olympic rowing team member and conservative politician Alex Storey denounced Pincher for unwanted sexual harassment of him. He was later acquitted in an internal party investigation.
Sky News also reported that Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife, questioned Pincher’s suitability as a party inspector in 2017 when she was working in party communications.
Inactivity of political parties
Following the Pincher scandal and following the arrest of a Conservative MP who has yet to be removed from office, the FDA and Prospect are asking Hoyle to consider reforming Parliament’s policy on sexual assault during their next Presidents’ Conference (House Review Forum) . communities). The unions echoed Labor MP Luke Pollard’s comments when he said Parliament was “an unsafe place to work” and that there was a “seemingly endless list of allegations of sexual harassment by MPs”.
“Political parties of all persuasions have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to properly deal with sexual harassment by one of them,” wrote Dave Penman and Mike Clancy, FDA and Prospect Secretaries General.
“If the parties do not act, parliament will have to do so by adopting a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate sexual behavior by MPs and taking seriously the responsibility of providing safe jobs for the people who work in it,” they said. .
Penman and Clancy wrote that Parliament’s reputation had been “severely damaged by numerous cases of alleged sexual harassment and misogyny committed by politicians against members of parliament, voters and others, including fellow MPs”, exacerbated by revelations of the Pincher case.
The Secretaries-General also see Parliament’s “disinterest” in these scandals as significant and ask: “Does Parliament, as an employer and public institution, have any say in the current sexual harassment crisis? Is parliament concerned that political parties and the government are not paying enough attention to potential risks for people working and passing by? Does Parliament feel it has the necessary powers to deal with deputies’ violations of ethics and the law when their parties do not?
The general secretaries of the unions argue that the mandate for the next conference of presidents, agreed last week by the House of Commons, should be broad enough to include an analysis of the rules of the Parliament, whether they are still meeting with their functions and considering, in particular, the inability Parliament to remove MEPs under investigation for sexual assault.
They also ask that courses on sexual harassment and abuse be made mandatory for all MPs. The current agenda of the Commission of Presidents, formed by the Commission of Deputies, concerns the employment contracts of the apparatus of deputies in order to review current working conditions and labor practices.
In the wake of the #MeToo scandal in Westminster, which ousted several government ministers, Parliament introduced a grievance and grievance system to allow victims to submit their complaints of sexual harassment and harassment to an independent investigator.
The problem is that from the very beginning, the political parties used this system as an excuse not to conduct their own investigations. Jess Phillips, who in opposition is in charge of overseeing the Home Office, warned of too many demands on victims that prevent them from filing formal complaints. The scheme only covers people who work in Parliament and not potential victims outside of Westminster, although it does apply to people who visit the premises of Parliament or attend events related to Parliamentary work.
“Sexual harassment has no place in the House of Commons,” said a spokesman for the House of Commons. “We take the safety of our employees very seriously and the Parliamentary Code of Conduct clearly sets out the standards of conduct expected of everyone in Parliament, whether employees, members of the House of Lords, MPs or visitors. There is zero tolerance for insults or harassment.”
“The Code of Conduct is supported by an independent complaint and grievance system that provides for the investigation of complaints of intimidation, harassment or inappropriate sexual conduct,” he concludes.
Translated by Francisco de Zarate
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