Westminster harassment crackdown: Kensington MP demands severe sanctions

Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad attacked lax measures on MPs’ sexual harassment yesterday amidst a growing scandal at Westminster.

The Labour MP’s words came on the day a cross-party committee, led by Andrea Leadsom, announced plans to increase the severity of punishments for MPs found guilty of misconduct.

Ms Dent Coad revealed her fury at the prevalence of sexual harassment in UK’s highest public offices.

She said: “I don’t know how they’ve gotten away with it for so long.

“This has to be absolutely 100% red-line dealt with, no nonsense, no training.

“If you come to Parliament and predate on whatever your preference is, you should be given a very, very severe sanction.

“If we can’t change behaviour here in the Houses of Parliament, we have no right to pass laws to persuade everybody else to behave better – MPs have to be an example in their behaviour, and often they’re not.”

Plans from the Commons Leader Mrs Leadsom aim to tackle harassment by forcing those found guilty to undergo training, with the threat of possible recall and removal from office also considered.

“There are no laws at the moment that allow what I’d like to do to those found guilty.”

Those accused will be granted anonymity even if found guilty, although those handed the most severe sanctions would be named under the proposals, which are due to be debated by MPs later this month.

Ms Dent Coad was open in her demands for more severe punishments, calling – tongue-in-cheek – for a stringent crackdown.

She quipped: “Well the Tower’s just down the river!

“There are no laws at the moment that allow what I’d like to do to those found guilty.”

A survey of the MPs’ working group found more than 250 victims of sexual harassment at Westminster in the past year, representing 19% of those questioned.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon resigned in November after claims of inappropriate behaviour, while two Conservative and two Labour MPs remain the subject of misconduct allegations.

Ms Dent Coad, elected to Westminster last year in a shock Labour gain with just a 20-vote majority, outlined a wider culture of abuse surrounding MPs, including online threats.

She said: “I see a lot of schools coming to Parliament and some school children are appalled at how people behave at Prime Minister’s Question Time.

“The groaning and the cat-calling and sneering, there’s nothing wrong with complaining and commenting but some of it is pure nastiness.

“In the media women get more [abuse], there’s no doubt about that, they try to grind us down. I know that, I’ve had bucketfuls.

“It makes you more determined and it’s completely counter-productive for anyone to be nasty to me, it makes me more bloody-minded.”

In the week that marked 100 years since the first British women were afforded the right to vote, Ms Dent Coad supported calls for a more representative Commons, which is currently 68% male, hoping this will aid debate on a range of gender equality issues.

She said: “Parliament should be representative of society at large, we should have 51% of women in parliament from all areas of society.

“It’s over-represented – particularly in the Conservative Party – with people from a certain echelon of society and that’s very disappointing, to put it politely.

“I think if we have problems getting on in society with women, we have to take our problems into those chambers and deal with them there. I don’t think they’re women’s problems, they’re society’s problems.”

Related Articles