A cross-party Commons committee has ruled that MPs found to have bullied or harassed their staff should apologise, undergo training, and in more serious cases, be suspended or forced to stand again for Parliament.
MPs currently do not have any formal disciplinary procedures outside their own parties, and there are no independent channels for staff to raise complaints about their behaviour.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom (pictured), who chaired the committee, said: “This is a major step in bringing about the culture change that Parliament needs.”
She acknowledged how difficult it was for MPs to be ejected from Parliament for misconduct, adding: “It’s for individual perpetrators to make a decision on whether to resign or retire. But it is absolutely the intention of this new procedure that they will and can be forced to do so, regardless of who they are and what their role is.”
The committee also wants MPs to be given mandatory training in appropriate behaviour in the workplace, which would start after the next general election.
“Consent training” and lessons in how to recruit staff and avoid “unconscious bias” will also be made available.
The committee had wanted to ensure complainants were “given the power in this process”, she said, but “it doesn’t take very much investigation” to work out the identity of an accuser if the MP employing them is named.
If the most serious sanctions were applied, the identity of the alleged perpetrator would be made public, under the committee’s proposals. MPs are in a “constant media spotlight” and “checks and balances” were needed to guard against “vexatious” complaints, the report said.
In a survey carried out by the MPs’ working group more than 250 people said they had seen or experienced sexual harassment in the past year. It also found that as well as 19% reporting experience of sexual harassment, 39% had experienced non-sexual harassment or bullying in the past 12 months.
The proposals will be debated by MPs later this month.