Allow third parties to report sexual misconduct at Westminster, MP says

Concerns reignited about parliament’s culture after Labour’s Charlotte Nichols privately shared a list of dozens of politicians to avoid

Calls are growing for third parties to be allowed to make complaints to Westminster’s sexual misconduct watchdog, after concerns were reignited about parliament’s culture by a Labour MP who privately shared a list of 20 MPs to avoid.

After a number of sexual misconduct and bullying scandals have led to suspensions and resignations of sitting MPs, some parliamentarians and unions say they remain concerned that witnesses cannot make complaints.

Complaints to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Service can also only be made by those working on the parliamentary estate or in constituencies, not from those outside who experience bullying or harassment from MPs.

Mike Clancy, the general secretary of Prospect, a leading union for staff working for parliament, said: “Trade unions and others in parliament have been warning for many years about a dangerous culture which fails to address sexual misconduct.

“It is abundantly clear that further reform is needed to protect those working there. This must include excluding MPs under investigation for sexual misconduct and must also include allowing third parties to report complaints to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Service.”

Charlotte Nichols, the Labour MP for Warrington North, posted the list of 20 names on a WhatsApp group for other Labour MPs before deleting it, saying it had been sent in error, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Nichols, who was elected in 2019, has previously said that when she arrived in Westminster, she was given a “whisper network list” of dozens of politicians to avoid.

Speaking in November, she said some MPs were notorious for their bullying or sexual misconduct, adding: “We all know and nothing is done and they continue to walk around and do their jobs – and there’s that kind of culture of impunity on it.”

The report cited a Conservative MP who called the list “grossly irresponsible” and said Nichols should make a complaint to the ICGS or police if she had evidence.

Responding on Twitter, Nichols said: “I can’t legally make a third-party report to the ICGS or police. Am I not meant to warn others about conduct I’ve seen, experienced or been told about that many times by different people that it’s a clear pattern of behaviour? I’m many things but a bystander isn’t one, and while Westminster is as grim as it is I won’t pretend otherwise.”

She added: “What’s actually irresponsible is the lack of real action to sort out Westminster’s sexual harassment problem which is so endemic other MPs and staff have to be warned about some colleagues’ behaviour to keep them safe! Wish it wasn’t this way, but for now it is. So here we are.”

Three Tory MPs have the whip suspended because of complaints about sexual misconduct.

In July, Chris Pincher, who was deputy chief whip under Boris Johnson, triggered the downfall of the prime minister after outrage that Johnson had initially intended to allow him to keep the whip after witnesses alleged he had groped men at a private members’ club and formal complaints were subsequently submitted.

Earlier in the year, the MP David Warburton was suspended over allegations of sexual harassment, which he denied, and another MP, Rob Roberts, was suspended from parliament for six weeks for breaching its sexual misconduct policy and has not had the Tory whip restored.

Another Conservative MP, Julian Knight, had the whip removed after a complaint was made to the Metropolitan police. Knight has vehemently rejected any wrongdoing.

Another unnamed Tory MP was also arrested earlier this year after a two-year investigation into claims of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in a public office.

The accused MP has been asked to stay away from parliament during the investigation, but has not been charged or had the whip suspended.

The Labour MP Christian Matheson resigned after an independent investigation found he made “unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances” towards a junior member of staff.

The Scottish National party recently restored the party whip to a senior MP who has sat as an independent since June after an independent parliamentary inquiry found he made an unwanted sexual advance towards a teenage party worker.


Jessica Elgot

The GuardianTramp