Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle has called for ‘radical’ changes to working standards
Sir Lindsay's remarks follow Neil Parish's announcement that he would quit after viewing porn in the Commons
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Following a string of bullying and sexual misconduct allegations involving MPs, Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle is calling for "radical" changes to working standards.
Sir Lindsay suggested staff should no longer be employed by the parliamentarians they work for to address a series of “serious allegations”.
He was considering moving to an outside body employing aides as Parliament’s reputation was feared to have hit a new low.
Sir Linday’s comments come as MP Neil Parish, who chairs the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, had been fighting to remain in the Commons after he was revealed to be the MP two colleagues reported having seen watching porn.
On Saturday (30 April), the backbencher said he would resign as he recognised the “furore” and “damage” he was causing his family and his constituency in Devon.
Here is everything you need to know.
Why are changes needed?
Offering an explanation of his behaviour in an interview with BBC South West, Parish said: “The situation was, funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at, so I did get into another website with sort of a very similar name and I watched it for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done.
“My crime, my biggest crime, is that on another occasion I went in a second time, and that was deliberate. That was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber.”
His resignation will open the way for a by-election in the Tory safe seat, which Parish won by more than 14,000 votes in 2019 over Labour.
It was the latest in a series of damning developments that have dogged the Commons in recent weeks.
Three Cabinet ministers are among 56 MPs reportedly facing allegations of sexual misconduct that have been referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
Liam Byrne, a senior Labour MP, is facing a two-day suspension from the Commons for bullying a member of staff.
After charges of sexual harassment and cocaine usage surfaced, David Warburton had the Conservative whip revoked.
Former Tory Imran Ahmad Khan resigned after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
What could change?
Writing in the Observer, Sir Lindsay said: “I believe it is time we reviewed our working practices, and particularly whether it is right that individual MPs are the employers of their staff. Should someone else – or an outside body – employ the staff, as long as the MP has the right to choose them?
“In my opinion, it is time to consider radical action, and review structures and processes that could make a difference. Some serious allegations have been made, and we must address them as a matter of urgency. It is imperative we do the right thing by staff and MPs as well.
“At the end of the day, I want to make sure that everyone feels they have support and somewhere to turn – and to make this house not only a safe and inclusive place to work, but a model for other legislatures.”
Sir Lindsay wants to create a "Speaker's conference," which would bring together MPs to discuss improvements.
Who else is on board?
Sir Lindsay’s bid for change was echoed by Andrea Leadsom, the former leader of the Commons, who in 2018 spearheaded the creation of the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment.
She told The Sunday Times: “Things haven’t changed and that’s because there aren’t enough cases coming through and it’s taking too long for investigations to come to an end.
“It’s only when you see people getting done for being blind drunk and subject to the appropriate sanctions that people will start to think twice about their behaviour.”
Meanwhile, Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden reiterated a commitment from Boris Johnson to ensure half of Conservative candidates for the Commons are women.
Women made up about a quarter of Conservative candidates in the 2019 election, but Labour managed to ensure women represented more than half of its candidates.
Earlier this week, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries suggested ensuring “a majority of women” in Parliament could help tackle Westminster sleaze.