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Tory MPs to get staff conduct code

Conservative MPs are to be given a new code of conduct setting out guidelines on how they should treat staff working in their offices.

Release of the code was held back until after the end of the trial of former deputy speaker Nigel Evans - who was cleared of all charges in a sexual assault and rape trial - to ensure there was no risk of prejudice.

The Conservatives said the code, which is being issued on a voluntary basis, was "a basic statement of what should be best practice in the workplace" for Tory MPs and their staff.

It is being circulated alongside a grievance procedure, which is available for staff to use if a grievance arises with an MP as their employer.

The new code is being sent out as a Channel 4 News investigation claimed there was a prevailing "climate of sexual harassment" in Parliament.

Channel 4 News said that its investigation - which involved interviewing 70 people from "all political parties and sexual orientations" - had found sexual harassment and abuse of power in Parliament was commonplace.

It said young men were more likely to be sexually harassed than women, with 40% of the men interviewed saying they had received unwanted sexual advances.

A third of all those interviewed said they had personally experienced sexual harassment, while almost a quarter said they had witnessed someone else being sexually harassed, or that a friend had confided in them about being harassed.

In a statement, Commons Speaker John Bercow said bullying and harassment in the workplace was "completely unacceptable" and that he would now look into whether procedures in Parliament were in need of reform.

He stressed, however, that there was a limit to what the House could do and he urged the political parties to take a lead in ensuring their MPs treated their staff appropriately.

"'People are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect as they carry out their work. The experience of working in Parliament for an MP should be positive and fulfilling. Time and again, people have told me how fortunate they feel to work here," he said.

"That said, having learned for the first time this afternoon of these allegations, I will consider if there are lessons for the House of Commons to learn or procedures to be reformed.

"MPs are self-employed and employ their staff directly. The House, therefore, is limited in its ability to intervene in cases in which allegations of bullying or harassment by MPs of their staff are concerned. These cases are clearly a matter for the political parties."


From Belfast Telegraph