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Friday, July 12, 2019

Action needed on harrassment by MPs

Having just published a novel about a sex-pest politician, I felt that I should comment on this Guardian article, which says that the Commons will vote next week on extending investigations into bullying and harassment by MPs to cover historic allegations. This proposal has emerged after an inquiry reported harrowing details of staff being shouted at or groped, and having heavy office equipment thrown at them:

While the government stressed that the vast majority of MPs did not abuse employees, an official report by barrister Gemma White QC recommended that parliament adopt new employment measures to better protect staff.

One of White’s findings was that former members of staff with grievances should be allowed to make historical complaints against members of parliament. The current system only covers events after the 2017 general election.

Following the publication of the report the leader of the Commons, Mel Stride, announced a debate and vote next Wednesday on modifying the remit of the new Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS). He said one of the proposed changes would be to extend the system to earlier complaints, which was also recommended by a report into bullying and harassment in parliament by Dame Laura Cox last year.

White’s 55-page report concluded that employees of MPs are in a vulnerable position because they are directly employed and consider any form of complaint as “career suicide”. They also often have strong party and personal loyalties which constitute significant barriers to complaint.

The paper says that parliamentary helplines for bullying and sexual misconduct have received more than 200 calls or emails from staff in each of the last three quarters. However, White’s report shows few MPs have sought help or retraining:

Only 34 out of 650 MPs and 135 out of 3,200 MPs’ staff have attended or signed up to the “valuing everyone” training, designed to support the new behaviour code introduced in July 2018, the report shows. The report calls for a fundamental shift away from regarding MPs as “650 small businesses” with near complete freedom regarding staff.

In a new development, the report calls for each member to be required to adopt and follow employment practices and procedures aligned with those followed in other public sector workplaces.

“This shift must be supported by a properly resourced and staffed department within the House of Commons. It should develop and implement a coherent and robust approach to members’ employment practice and provide support to members and their staff,” the report says.

That so few MPs have taken up the training on offer is disappointing to say the least. The report is absolutely right that employment practices should mirror those outside the House of Commons. That means that managers (the MPs) must be properly trained and resourced. It is the only way to stop this abuse.
Training should be compulsory. 'Business sounds a ruthless term not one where they are supposed to be serving the country and the people.
If people want to make it a career choice why can't it be a branch of the civil service with an exam covering all relevant issues in running an office.
The cutting down of the Civil Service is a ploy to CONTROL the system for political ends. IT MUST STOP
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