Unions demand action to bar MPs accused of sexual misconduct from the Houses of Parliament

15 October 2021

Parliamentary unions have written to the Speaker asking him to look again at barring MPs accused of sexual misconduct from the Palace of Westminster.

The move comes after a string of cases involving MPs in recent years with anxieties brought to the fore by news that murderer Wayne Couzens spent time working on the Parliamentary Estate.

The letter from Prospect, the FDA and MPs’ staff branches of GMB and Unite, says:

Responsibility for vetting the officers deployed to Parliament clearly lies with the Met, but—as you yourself indicated in your statement on 3 October—the question as to who we allow to cross “the parliamentary threshold” is key to ensuring the security of Members and staff, which as you said, “has always been our number one priority”.

In that context, the unions believe the time is right to revisit an issue we raised with the Commission last year and at the Women and Equalities Committee as part of its inquiry into a Gender Sensitive Parliament; the potential exclusion from the Parliamentary Estate of MPs who are the subject of investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, or other serious misconduct that might suggest a potential risk to staff.

The letter points out that it is entirely possible for someone to be absent from the House for a period without it disenfranchising voters, as demonstrated by the systems put in place during COVID, and existing protocols for e.g. long-term illness.

Parliament has a duty of care to its employees and legal obligations to provide a safe environment for visitors which cannot simply be superseded in all circumstances by references to the uncodified and informal “privileges” of Members of Parliament.

In any other employment context, the employer would have the option of suspending an employee where there is a serious allegation of misconduct which could potentially give rise to a risk to other staff. Indeed, it is likely that parliamentary staff would be suspended were they subject to similar allegations.

Unions are meeting with the House of Commons Commission on Monday and will expect concerns to be addressed.

Garry Graham, Prospect deputy general secretary, said:

“In any other workplace, if someone was under investigation for serious misconduct they would be suspended and it should be a no-brainer that some kind of equivalent neutral action exist when the person under investigation is an MP.

“This is not about prejudgement it is about ensuring that people feel safe in the place that they work. Maintaining a system where, purely by virtue of the power they wield as an elected representative, MPs are immune from normal workplace standards is at best anachronistic and at worse actively contributing to a toxic and unacceptable working culture.

“It’s time Parliament stopped crying “constitution” and got it’s house in order.”

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