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PEERS and MPs guilty of bullying and sexual harassment could be recalled or expelled from Parliament if recommended new sanctions come into force.
A report by a cross-party working group published today said there was evidence of widespread allegations of sexual harassment in the Palace of Westminster.
It said 19 per cent of 1,377 parliamentary workers had told a survey that they had experienced or witnessed some form of it over the past year — with twice as many female complainants as men.
Some 39 per cent of survey respondents reported being subjected to non-sexual harassment or bullying over the same period, including 45 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men.
The report, by a cross-party working group chaired by Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, recommended the establishment of a binding Parliament-wide behaviour code as well as an independent complaints procedure and confidential helplines to report abuse.
MPs, peers and staff will have compulsory training sessions in understanding and preventing harassment, and a new independent sexual violence adviser will be appointed to support anyone making a complaint.
Under the proposed system, complaints against MPs, peers or members of staff would trigger a confidential inquiry and there would be tougher sanctions for those found to have behaved inappropriately.
Standards committees in the Commons and Lords would be able to recommend the suspension of an MP or peer for a specified period.
This could trigger proceedings for the recall of an MP — resulting in a new election in their constituency — or the expulsion of a peer.
The Unite union, which represents hundreds of MPs’ staff, said that formal union recognition was needed to ensure support for employees isolated in small offices, where power relationships are “frequently unhealthy and unequal.”
National officer Siobhan Endean said: “We cannot stand still and believe that everything in the garden will be rosy. We need root-and-branch reforms and Parliament must modernise its procedures so that its employment practices become fit for the 21st century.”
And the National Union of Journalists criticised plans to keep the names secret, saying any MPs named during the inquiry should be investigated properly.
The working group’s report will be considered by both chambers, with a debate due to take place in the two weeks after MPs return from their half-term recess on February 20.
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