PM vows to reform Commons disciplinary procedures amid claims of 'impropriety'

Theresa May is offering to hold talks with Speaker John Bercow on overhauling Commons disciplinary procedures amid mounting reports of abusive and inappropriate behaviour towards women.

A list of 13 MPs facing harassment allegations has been circulating at Westminster, according to The Daily Telegraph, as Number 10 again made clear any unwanted sexual behaviour was "completely unacceptable".

Meanwhile the Guido Fawkes website claimed Tory aides had compiled a spreadsheet of 36 Conservative MPs - including 20 ministers - accused of inappropriate behaviour. The Conservatives declined to comment.

Over the weekend the Prime Minister ordered a Cabinet Office inquiry into whether International Trade Minister Mark Garnier had breached the ministerial code over claims he asked his Commons secretary to buy sex toys and called her "sugar tits".

Mrs May was also facing calls to suspend a second senior Conservative, former Cabinet minister Stephen Crabb, after he was reported to have admitted sending explicit messages to a 19-year-old woman he interviewed for a job.

In a letter to Mr Bercow, the Prime Minister said the current grievance system for dealing with complaints by MPs' staff lacked "teeth" as there was no contractual requirement for MPs to follow its procedures.

Stephen Crabb
Theresa May is coming under pressure to suspend Stephen Crabb (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

"I do not believe that this situation can be tolerated any longer. It is simply not fair on staff, many of whom are young and in their first job post-education," she wrote.

"It is vital that the staff and the public have confidence in Parliament and resolving this employment irregularity on a cross-party basis can play an important role in this.

"I would be grateful if you would be able to use your office to assist me in doing all we can to ensure that the reputation of Parliament is not damaged further by allegations of impropriety."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable signalled his support for Mrs May's initiative, saying: "Parliament clearly needs improved procedures to respond to allegations of harassment."

The former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham, also backed the move but warned against making the system too complicated, and questioned Mrs May's suggestion of a mediation system.

"This could be a turning point," he told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour.

"But the danger is you just get an accretion of more and more systems which just makes the whole arrangement unworkable - which is why I'm a great believer in simplicity, clarity, and making sure that when complaints are made they're investigated very quickly."

The Stephen Crabb thing is sickening. If you think that no sexual contact gets you off the hook for gross abuse of your power you don't get it. Power is the root of all violence against women

-- Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) October 28, 2017

Labour MP Jess Phillips called on Mrs May to suspend Mr Crabb from the Conservative Party pending an investigation into his conduct.

Writing in the Times Red Box email, she said: "Theresa May must put her money where her mouth is and investigate Stephen Crabb while his whip is removed."

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