‘Horrifying’ new rule keeps corruption and sexual harassment in parliament a secret

Parliament at daytime.

MPs have voted through a “horrifying” new rule that keeps corruption and sexual harassment investigations in parliament a secret. At times, Westminster can keep the public in the dark even if the inquiry finds the politician guilty.

Kept secret: even if the politician is guilty

If the complaint is upheld, the Mirror reports, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner must consider “proportion” and the offending politician’s “reputation” when deciding whether to publish the result. That’s the case if both the commissioner and a new complaints scheme are involved.

If only the commissioner is involved, Westminster will publish the results at the end of the investigation, no matter the outcome.

Other policies

Most parties backed the proposals. As a result, the ‘current inquiries’ link on the parliamentary website has already vanished. The page identified MPs currently under probe.

The new anonymity rule passed through parliament with a raft of other policies. These include [paywall] a code of behaviour for MPs, an independent helpline for harassment, and mandatory training for less serious incidents.

“Deeply worrying”

MPs had a chance to vote for an amendment to the proposals, which would stop anonymity applying to all investigations.

Caroline Lucas, one of 22 MPs to vote for the amendment, told the Commons:

the optics of this House rolling back transparency are deeply worrying.

Two of Theresa May’s ministers resigned over scandals only last year. Former defence secretary Michael Fallon resigned after a complaint of sexual assault, according to senior Conservative MP Anna Soubry. And former first secretary of state Damian Green stood down after lying about pornography found on his office computer.

Campaigner Rachel Swindon was not impressed by the new rule, saying on Twitter:

This is quite horrifying… Transparency is dead.

Expanding transparency vs rolling it back

The new rule means that even guilty politicians could potentially keep their misconduct a secret.

Adopting any avenue for a politician to hide corruption or sexual harassment means parliamentarians could game the system.

We should be expanding transparency, not keeping the public in the dark.

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Featured image via Rennett Stowe/ Flickr

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