The House of Commons Commission has launched a consultation on excluding MPs charged with sexual or violent offences from parliament.
The consultation comes after a long-standing row between staff and management as MPs have been allowed to attend the House despite serious accusations of sexual assault. A few weeks ago, the New Statesman revealed that staff were still not reporting serious misconduct allegations against MPs, in part because there was no mechanism to prevent them from meeting the accused again in the future.
The consultation, which seeks views from staff and members of the House of Commons, suggests that it would be “for the whole House to ultimately decide on any such power” and that each exclusion would be taken on a “case-by-case basis, informed by a risk assessment”.
The commission acknowledges that “on several occasions, Members arrested or alleged to be under investigation for sexual offences have agreed voluntarily not to attend the estate. That voluntary commitment has not always been honoured.” The mechanism proposes that an “adjudication panel” would be appointed by the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, and put to the whole House at the start of each parliament. It is proposed that in this parliament it could comprise the deputy speakers and a non-executive member of the commission.
The consultation document acknowledges that although the Speaker is responsible for access, “[he] is often subject to representations from Members and may feel conflicted” if the decision to exclude members fell to him. The proposed terms of exclusion would mean MPs have their pass suspended for the duration of an investigation, and would not be able to attend trips abroad funded by the House of Commons. It does, however, suggest that that MP would still be able to take part in any virtual activity. The consultation also says that it is “particularly interested” in the views of MPs as to whether an excluded colleague should be given a proxy vote.
One member of House staff said: “The launch of this consultation marks a move in the right direction and is a step closer to making staff feel safer on the estate and helping them feel more confident in making complaints. However, I hope in future that consideration will be given to all Members who are under investigation for sexual misconduct and not just those who have been charged with violent or sexual offences.”
The consultation is running until 31 January, with no exact date given for when a summary or response will be published.