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Theresa May Gets Tough on Sexual Misconduct by MPs After 'Dirty Dossier'

The British Prime Minister wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, calling for an independent mediation service for staff wanting to raise concerns about MPs' behaviour as the current procedure for discipline "lacked teeth".

PTI

Updated:October 30, 2017, 8:26 PM IST
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Theresa May Gets Tough on Sexual Misconduct by MPs After 'Dirty Dossier'
File photo of British Prime Minister Theresa May.
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London: British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday lamented the current toothless procedure to discipline MPs accused of inappropriate behaviour after a so-called "dirty dossier" embroiled 36 of her party lawmakers over allegations of sexual misconduct.

May was on Sunday shown a dossier of accusations of sexual misconduct against some of her Conservative party ministers and MPs.

She wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, calling for an independent mediation service for staff wanting to raise concerns about MPs' behaviour as the current procedure for discipline "lacked teeth".

"There is a suggested disciplinary procedure provided by IPSA [Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority] as part of the standard contract. However, it does not have the required teeth as contractually an MP does not have to follow the procedure. I do not believe that this situation can be tolerated any longer," May said in her letter.

"The Conservative Party is determined to protect those staff who work for MPs but in order to do so effectively I believe that we must establish a House-wide mediation service complemented by a contractually binding grievance procedure available for all MPs irrespective of their party banner," it noted.

Bercow is to hold a meeting to discuss the matter of dealing with inappropriate behaviour by MPs this week. The letter makes a reference to "recent media reports" regarding the alleged mistreatment of staff by some British MPs.

Stressing that everyone who works in the House of Commons had the right to be treated "properly and fairly", May also invited other party leaders to engage with her on the matter.

Her letter came as it was widely reported that Conservative party staff have complied a list of at least 36 current Tory MPs against whom allegations of inappropriate behaviour have been made, including havingaffairs with junior colleagues, being "handsy" with women.

May has already called on the UK Cabinet Office to investigate the conduct of one of her junior ministers in the Department for International Trade, Mark Garnier, who admitted referring to his secretary with an inappropriate sexual phrase and sending her to buy sex toys for him.

The events in question took place in 2010, before Garnier was a minister.

Another senior Conservative party MP and former Cabinet minister, Stephen Crabb, has also admitted to sending "explicit" texts to a 19-year-old woman after she had been interviewed for a job by him.

The scandal has since been intensifying as a number of other unnamed MPs have also been caught up in the scandal, which threatens to rock Mays leadership.

While Downing Street has denied a report that emerged over the weekend that the British Prime Minister receives weekly updates from the Tory party whips office about MPs sexual misdemeanours, it said May was taking the issue very seriously.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, one of whose own MPs - Jared O'Mara - has recently been suspended amid claims of misogynistic comments, said he was ready to meet the Speaker and Prime Minister to strengthen disciplinary procedures. A Labour spokesperson said: "There must be robust procedures inside as well as outside Parliament for dealing with abuse and harassment".

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable signalled his support for May's initiative and said: "Parliament clearly needs improved procedures to respond to allegations of harassment". A series of claims about the behaviour of senior British politicians have hit the headlines in recent days after the Harvey Weinstein scandal in Hollywood encouraged women in other professions to share their experiences via a "me too" campaign on social media.

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