MPs should be given regular training in employment standards and how to manage their parliamentary offices following a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in Westminster, Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The Labour leader called for the creation of an independently certified authority to provide a “minimum standard of support” for victims, which would point parliamentary staff towards counselling, reporting and representation through complaints procedures.
Mr Corbyn made the suggestions in a letter to the Prime Minister ahead of cross-party talks on Monday to create a Parliament-wide anti-harassment procedure.
In a sign of how seriously the party is taking the growing scandal, Labour has also appointed a top QC to lead an independent probe into allegations that activist Bex Bailey was raped at a party event and then advised not to report it by a senior official.
In his letter to Theresa May, Mr Corbyn said: “We believe there should be a minimum standard of support for parliamentary staff, vetted and certificated by an independent authority. Such an authority should offer an independent route for counselling, reporting and representation through complaints procedures, as well as powers to recommend reporting of criminal allegations to the police.
“We further believe it is necessary to introduce a minimum-standard training programme for MPs following each general election in best-practice employment standards and management of their parliamentary offices.”
He said political parties should encourage all staff to join a trade union, as they can provide a “vital mechanism” for strengthening effective action and protection from sexual and other harassment and abuse at work.
Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas, who last week called for MPs to be educated on consent, said any new training programme should come into force immediately, rather than after an election.
“I’m pleased that the Leader of the Opposition is joining me in calling for MPs to receive training in employment standards. His proposals are a step forward, but don’t go far enough because they mean waiting for a general election to start this training when it really should begin immediately. This kind of consent and employment training should be compulsory – and it should start now.
“Today I’ll be urging the Prime Minister to introduce consent lessons, look at reforming employment structures, so that MPs are no longer employers, bring in a code of conduct for MPs and resource parties to help them have more robust and independent legal and human resource capacity. We also need a robust independent grievance and complaints process here in Parliament.”
Several Labour MPs have been caught up in the scandal, including Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins who is being investigated over allegations he sent inappropriate messages to a young activist – a claim he denies.
The Independent revealed last week that Labour was also looking into claims that Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South, had groped a woman at a Momentum event at the Labour conference. He denies the claim.