Jess Phillips says two women told her they were raped by MPs

Watch: Jess Phillips reveals she's spoken to two women in one day who said they have been raped by MPs

Labour MP Jess Phillips has told the Commons she spoke to two women in just one day who told her they'd been raped by MPs.

The former shadow domestic violence minister made the comments as members debated proposals to exclude MPs from Parliament if they have been arrested for a serious offence – rather than charged.

Initially, the House of Commons Commission proposed that a risk assessment would take place on whether an MP should be barred if they were arrested on suspicion of committing a violent or sexual offence. The proposal was later revised so the threshold for a ban was at the point of charge – meaning the bar for banning an MP from the premises had been pushed much higher.

However, on Monday night MPs voted 170 to 169, majority one, in favour of a proposal from Liberal Democrat Wendy Chamberlain to revert to the threshold being an arrest.

Among those pressing the case for this was Phillips, who said: “Today, just on this one day, I have spoken to two women who were raped by members of this Parliament; that’s a fairly standard day for me.

“I notice these are not the people who have so far been mentioned much today and some of them told me what they wanted me to say. Exclusion at the point of charge sends a clear message to victims that not only will we not investigate unless a victim goes to the police but we won’t act unless they’re charged, which happens in less than 1% of cases. ‘So what’s the point?’ was essentially what this victim said to me.

FILE PHOTO: The Elizabeth Tower, more commonly known as Big Ben, and the Houses of Parliament are lit up by morning sun in London, Britain, February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
The government had attempted to water-down the measures to risk-based exclusions after charges are made. (Reuters) (REUTERS / Reuters)

"I’m going to stand here and speak up for them because every single one of them wishes for this to be on arrest."

Phillips challenged the idea of arrests being made on a "vexatious charge" – meaning a person has made an accusation with the intention of harassing or subduing someone else.

"I would urge the house to understand that it takes a huge amount for somebody to be arrested. You can't just ring West Midlands Police and say, 'Jess Phillips assaulted me', and they're going to come round and arrest me in the hour."

The division list showed eight Conservative MPs voted in favour of the amendment, including former prime minister Theresa May, while Natalie Elphicke – who defected to Labour from the Tories last week – also supported it.

MPs have previously only been prevented from attending the parliamentary estate by voluntary arrangements with their own party whips under such circumstances.

Recalling a conversation she had with Sir Christopher Chope, Phillips said that when she mentioned safeguarding of MPs, the Tory MP for Christchurch replied: “We are not employed, so employment law does not come to us.”

Theresa May supported the measure. (AP)
Theresa May supported the measure. (AP) (HANNAH MCKAY via Getty Images)

Phillips replied: “Okay. Childminders are self-employed, so would you be happy with a rapey childminder who has been arrested looking after your three-year-old? I wouldn’t be. Why do we think that we in this place are so special? Why are we all talking as if all the people who work in this building do not have a right to feel safe when they walk around?

"The women I spoke to today do not feel safe, and they told me to come and say that. The women who work in the office on my floor all said to me, 'Go and say this for us today, Jess,' Why do we think we are so special?"

Conservative former minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier described the plans for risk-based exclusion as an “extraordinary power grab by standing orders to undermine a fundamental of our constitution”.

He said: “I know members of Parliament talking about privilege sounds as if they are talking about themselves, but no, it is of our constituents to be represented, and they are not only represented by votes, indeed most of the time they are least represented by votes because they go the way of a government majority with one more or less not making a ha’p’orth (halfpennyworth) of difference.

“But the real representation is in this very room. It is not even in Westminster Hall or in committee, it is in this great cockpit of debate, and taking away that right by a cabal is against the constitution.”

Sir Jacob said he did not have strong opinions about whether exclusions should be made at the point of arrest or charge, but added: “If we want to do this, let us find time or legislation and let us do it properly.”

Also raising constitutional and legal concerns, Conservative former minister Sir Michael Ellis: “There is a key principle here, there’s a golden thread that runs through our system that a person must not suffer imposition before guilt has been proven. And it is offensive against the laws of natural justice, and in fact contrary to human rights to do so.”

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