MPs could lose seats under Westminster ‘behaviour code’

Westminster staff will have to abide by strict new ‘behaviour codes’ as a crackdown on sexual harassment begins in the wake of the ‘pestminster’ scandal.

MPs who engage in sexual harassment or bullying could lose their seats under a new independent complaints procedure.

Put together by a cross-party working group of MPs and staff, the new grievance procedure includes a dedicated phone line for reporting incidents of sexual harassment.

Mrs Leadsom, who chairs a cross-party working group looking at the ‘pestminster’ allegations, said victims should receive ‘absolutely not just be an apology’

The code allows opportunities for both informal resolutions and independent investigators to consider evidence, told The Financial Times.

But the final decision on any case will be made by a totally independent parliamentary commissioner for standards – each with the ability to suspend MPs.

This leaves MPs open a parliamentary rule called ‘recall’ – which could see them lose seats in the house. 

The 2015 Recall of MPs Act permits a recall petition to be triggered if an MP is sentenced to jail time – or suspended from the Commons for at least 21 days.

And while the process would include new sanctions around bullying and harassment the recall trigger itself would not change.

‘It would be that an MP ends up exposed to recall, depending on [the] severity of [the] situation,’ said a source close to the working group.

It comes after Andrea Leadsom warned MPs they will not be let off with ‘just an apology’ but will face ‘real sanctions’ if they harass their staff.

Mrs Leadsom, who chairs a cross-party working group looking at the ‘pestminster’ allegations, told the BBC the outcome of a complaint under the toughened up rules would ‘absolutely not just be an apology’. 

She said: ‘As ever, with something like this, you want to focus on informal resolution, you want to focus on prevention, you want to focus on changing the culture.

‘However there will be real sanctions at the end of this process.

‘If it’s a Member of Parliament, then it would be a referral to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and ultimately to the Commons Committee for Standards, which has the ability to suspend Members of Parliament.

‘And there is of course then the Recall of MPs Act 2015, that itself does enable a constituency to decide to get rid of their Member of Parliament. 

The plans are expected to be published this week. A vote in the Commons and Lords is expected shortly after the report is published.