Sexual harassment; the words have become a constant within headlines with an increasing number of cases brought to public attention - the latest being a ‘dirty dossier’ exposing Members of Parliament.
Westminster researchers compiled a spreadsheet, titled ‘High libido MPs’, detailing allegations against almost 40 Conservative MPs including 15 current cabinet ministers and over 20 backbench MPs over the past five years.
The document, put together by both male and female researchers and seen by The Times, found that Mark Garnier, International Trade Minister is facing an investigation after he admitted to asking his secretary to purchase sex toys and called her ‘sugar tits’. He described the incident, which occurred in 2010 as ‘good-humoured high jinks.’
The allegations also named Stephen Crabb, former Work and Pensions Secretary, who apologised for engaging in ‘sexual chatter’ with a 19-year-old woman he interviewed for a job in his office in 2013.
Others cited in the document include a veteran Tory backbencher, described as being ‘perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women’; a current senior cabinet minister accused of being ‘handsy at parties’; another minister, nicknamed ‘Cop-a-feel’ and a Conservative MP who was accused of agreeing a ‘non-disclosure’ settlement with another politician’s researcher.
A prominent female MP was accused of having affairs with young male researchers whilst at least two MPs were named for getting their mistresses pregnant, with one allegedly paying for an abortion. Other MPs have reportedly had sex in their private offices in Westminster while two Conservative politicians are accused of using prostitutes.
There is also a video of a Conservative backbencher engaged in an ‘extreme sex act’ with three men. The Guardian reports that rumours are spreading about one Conservative MP who ‘allegedly takes pictures of young men in compromising positions and uses them to extract sexual favours.’
A former researcher who participated in drawing up the spreadsheet, said it was intended to “determine how extensive this issue is and especially how many ministers could potentially be involved. If half of them face allegations and have to stand down it could bring down the Government,” they said.
They added that many researchers feared jeopardising their jobs for speaking out: “Everyone knows about this in Westminster, about people who are known to be handsy or weird at conference. We knew about Stephen Crabb already but it’s just that so many, including senior ministers, have been overlooked,” the former Conservative aide added.
The House of Commons has records of 21 employment tribunal claims against MPs since 2011. A spokesman said that four had been registered this year. Prime Minister, Theresa May said she is determined to protect Westminster staff against sexual harassment and is taking action. She wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, calling on him to establish an independent mediation service for staff who want to raise concerns.
May also called for a grievance procedure to be enforced. It is currently voluntary as parliamentary staff work directly for MPs, who in effect are self-employed and don’t have to adopt the policy.
“It does not have the required teeth as contractually an MP does not have to follow the procedure. I do not believe this situation can be tolerated any longer,” May said in her letter. “I believe it is important that those who work in the House of Commons are treated properly and fairly, as would be expected in any modern workplace,” she added.