Theresa May has urged the House of Commons to introduce a mediation system and a binding grievance system, which parliamentary staff could use to make complaints against MPs © Stefan Rousseau/PA
Downing Street has denied that Theresa May has seen a “dossier” of sexual harassment by Conservative MPs, as the British government confronts a series of newspaper reports of alleged misconduct.
“There is no dossier,” the UK prime minister’s official spokesman said on Monday, responding to a report in the Sunday Times that the prime minister was regularly updated by Conservative whips about MPs’ misconduct.
On Monday afternoon the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, will make a statement to MPs about sexual harassment. Both Mrs May and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have already called for any victims to come forward and report to the police or parliamentary authorities.
Mrs May has also urged the Commons to introduce a mediation system and a binding grievance system, which parliamentary staff could use to make complaints against MPs. At present, MPs are not obliged to follow an independent grievance system in relation to staff, whom they employ directly.
Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the committee of standards into public life, questioned whether Mrs May’s proposal of mediation was the right tool. “If you’ve got a grievance, you want it properly investigated,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour. “The danger is you just get an accretion of more and more systems, which just makes the whole arrangement unworkable.”
The allegations at Westminster come in the wake of those involving Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer. Several MPs spoke of their own experiences of sexual harassment, while health secretary Jeremy Hunt said parliament needed to show it was upholding the standards it expected of others.
There are more than 15,000 parliamentary passholders, including many junior researchers and MPs’ staff.
Several newspapers have cited allegations against MPs, including two serving cabinet ministers. However, most of the reports have not so far named alleged offenders or alleged victims.
The Times and Guido Fawkes reported on Monday that some Tory aides had created a spreadsheet with the names of 36 Conservative MPs, including 18 serving ministers. The alleged behaviour in the document ranges from serious harassment to a consensual relationship between two Westminster workers.
Mark Garnier, a junior minister in the department for international trade, is currently being investigated by the Cabinet Office after he admitted to Mail on Sunday having given a former secretary money to buy sex toys. The investigation, launched at Mrs May’s request, will look at whether he breached the ministerial code.
Asked how the ministerial code could be used to judge actions that happened in 2010, six years before Mr Garnier became a minister, Mrs May’s spokesman said that the code was “very broad”.
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