Make MPs accountable for sexual harassment

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The sexual assault and harassment allegations in Westminster have appalled us all. Theresa May has called for a culture of respect at Parliament and both she proposed a code of conduct and better complaints procedures. These are useful steps, but more can be done to hold politicians to account.

As an employment lawyer, I've worked with women who have reported abuse in Westminster and seen politicians not held to account. For example, we worked with women who made sexual misconduct claims against Lord Rennard.

The investigation in 2013 concluded that there was not enough evidence for disciplinary action and that Lord Rennard should reflect on his conduct, apologise, and consider changing his behaviour in the future. Lord Rennard did not even apologise.

The Equality Act 2010 can be used to hold sexual predators to account in the workplace. Crown employees and Parliamentary staff can sue if they are sexually harassed by an MP. Most do not complain though and unpaid volunteers are not covered.

Further, where a female MP is the victim of sexual harassment by a male MP, currently she cannot sue the MP predator. MPs and Lords are immune as "office holders" in a "political office".  That is one of the key reasons why sexual harassment is so prominent at Westminster. It is why I'm calling to remove the exemption.

Other officer-holders like civil servants, police officers, and Parliamentary staff can be held accountable under the Equality Act. By making the exemption, politicians legislated that their own harassing conduct against female MPs could not be challenged - the male MPs made themselves unaccountable under the Act.

Please sign my petition to make this happen and to empower (female) MPs who are the victims of sexual harassment by other MPs or Lords.

Equally, it is wrong that male MPs who are sexually harassed are also unprotected.