Party leaders agree new complaints procedure, says Theresa May

Leaders meeting.
PA

Westminster party leaders have agreed to introduce a new grievance procedure for staff to deal with misconduct allegations, Theresa May has said.

The prime minister said the measures, which will also include face-to-face human resources support, were an “important step forward”.

They were backed by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn following cross-party talks.

It comes as several Conservative and Labour MPs are investigated over allegations of sexual misconduct.

The new grievance procedure should be in place next year, said Mrs May, with the new face-to-face support service, an upgrade of an existing complaints hotline, to be introduced by the end of the month.

Speaking after the meeting in her parliamentary office, Mrs May said: “I think if this hasn’t happened to you it’s difficult to appreciate the impact that being a victim of this sort of behaviour can have, it simply has a lasting impact on people.

“We need to do more to stop these abuses of power and I’m pleased that having convened this meeting of party leaders today we have agreed a way forward,” she added.

‘Independent route’

Mr Corbyn has called for training for MPs in managing their offices and a new independent body to support staff who suffer mistreatment.

In a letter to the prime minister ahead of the meeting, Mr Corbyn said MPs should undergo training after each general election in employment standards.

He said a new body should be set up to provide an “independent route” to counselling, reporting and representation through complaints procedures, and have powers to recommend reporting of criminal allegations to the police.

He said political parties should encourage all staff to join a trade union, as they can provide a “vital mechanism” for strengthening effective action and protection from sexual and other harassment and abuse at work.

‘Disappointing’

Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, who last week called for MPs to be educated on consent, said any new training programme should come into force immediately, rather than after an election.

The SNP Ian Blackford said that although the proposal for a working group came from the prime minister there was “cross-party consensus” on the plan.

“This is about a working group that can work on a consensual basis, on a cross-party basis, to make sure we can have standards – first class standards, gold plated standards – that we can be proud of”, he said.

But Labour MPs who have led the campaign to crackdown on sexual abuse and harassment said the reforms did not go far enough.

Jess Phillips, the MP for Birmingham Yardley, said: “Find this utterly disappointing. Great a grievance procedure, the victims will be thrilled. What if they don’t work in Parliament?

“What about sanctions, what about specialist support from actual professionals who know what they are talking about on sexual violence/harassment.”

And Stella Creasy, the MP for Walthamstow, added: “Still much work to do making parliament safe if this only comes into place in a year and only covers MP staff.”

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