UK MPs face tougher penalties for abuse

MPs and peers in the UK could face tougher penalties after a probe into harassment in parliament.
MPs and peers in the UK could face tougher penalties after a probe into harassment in parliament.

British MPs and peers could face recall or expulsion under new sanctions for bullying and abuse recommended in a report which found evidence of widespread allegations of sexual harassment within parliament.

A survey of 1377 parliamentary workers found that almost one in five (19 per cent) said they had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour over the past year - with twice as many female as male complainants.

And 39 per cent of respondents reported experience of non-sexual harassment or bullying over the same period, including 45 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men.

The report, by a cross-party working group chaired by Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom, recommended the creation of a procedure for complaints and grievances that will be "independent from the political parties, and offer confidentiality and fairness to those who have a complaint brought against them".

It called for a review of existing Codes of Conduct to reflect a new parliament-wide Behaviour Code.

Under the proposed system, complaints would spark a confidential inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, with a tougher range of sanctions for those found to have behaved inappropriately.

On receiving the commissioner's report, standards committees in the Commons and Lords would be able to recommend the suspension of an MP or peer for a specified period.

This could trigger proceedings for recall of an MP - resulting in a new election in his or her constituency - or the expulsion of a peer.