Westminster sleaze safeguards do not go far enough, say Labour women MPs

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Labour women MPs have hit out at "disappointing" plans agreed by party leaders to introduce new safeguards for parliamentary staff following Westminster sleaze allegations.

Prime Minister Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and their counterparts from smaller parties decided on a new grievance procedure that is expected to be in place next year.

An existing complaints hotline will be upgraded to a face-to-face human resources service by the end of the month.

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

Jess Phillips 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.

"So if you don't work in Parliament and an MP assaults you, or MP's staff does. How will this help?"

Stella Creasy said: "Still much work to do making parliament safe if this only comes into place in a year and only covers MP staff."

Stella Creasy
Stella Creasy said there is "still much work to do making parliament safe" (Yui Mok/PA)

Mrs May said the reforms were an "important step forward" in tackling abuses of power.

She 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.

"And 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.

"We are going to ensure that there's an upgrade to the existing phone line for staff so that staff in future will be able to get face-to-face HR support and for that to be in place by the end of the month.

"And we've also agreed that we need a completely new grievance procedure for staff working here, for everybody working here, and that that should come into effect in the New Year."

Mrs May was also asked to "categorically" state that she knew nothing about any allegations that came to the fore following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

She replied: "The allegations that have come to the fore in the last week I have been made aware of over that time period because of things that have appeared in the press but also allegations that I've been told over the last week in private."

Mr Corbyn said: "The proof of the pudding is going to be in the eating here. We've agreed to meet, we've agreed to set up this urgent group to represent the staff who work in this building."

In today's meeting with party leaders we agreed to establish a new grievance system for staff in Parliament to report bullying & harassment pic.twitter.com/1ejj3C8yev

-- Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 6, 2017

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said: "Parliament must be able to lead by example, and as politicians, we need to put in place mechanisms that fully support staff. There must be zero tolerance to sexual harassment or bullying and staff in Westminster need to know they will be fully supported."

Mrs May's de facto deputy Damian Green was being interviewed on Monday as part of a Cabinet Office investigation which has been expanded to include claims that pornography was found on one of his parliamentary computers in 2008.

The First Secretary of State has strongly denied the claims.