Jones criticises Westminster culture after further sexual misconduct allegations

Katie Neame

Sarah Jones has said there continues to be a culture in Westminster where people think they can behave in a way that is “completely unacceptable” after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against a cabinet minister and No 10 aide.

Sky News published first-hand accounts from two women on Thursday, one of whom alleges that she was assaulted by a currently serving member of the cabinet and the other who claims to have been groped by someone who now works in No 10.

In an interview with Sky News this morning, the shadow policing minister said: “We need to draw attention to the problems that we face in Westminster, and it’s horrific to hear people feeling that they can’t come forward.

“I think there is a societal problem here where so few sexual abuse cases, so few rape cases, ever seen any kind of justice – 1.3% of rape cases prosecuted – that people across the country, women, feel that they won’t get justice and that they’re not going to be supported, and that’s a problem for all of us.

“In Westminster, I think it’s about power, and we do still have a culture where certain people think they can behave in a way that is completely unacceptable. And it’s about processes, of course, that we set up to make sure people can come forward.

“But it’s also about leadership from the very top. And it’s really important we have Prime Ministers and government ministers sending out messages that this is not acceptable, that they will act. And I’m afraid cases like Chris Pincher and others don’t necessarily fill people with confidence that that’s the case.”

The woman who made the allegations against the serving cabinet minister is a former parliamentary staff member for the Conservative party. She spoke to Sky News anonymously.

On the alleged victim’s decision to remain anonymous, Jones said: “It’s partly about the way that we operate as members of parliament. We have our own individual teams, we’re almost like small businesses, we recruit a team of people around us.

“And it’s very hard in that situation if you are being abused by your boss to know who to turn to to have the confidence that something will be done. So we need to be much better at those processes.”

Prospect union general secretary Mike Clancy declared that there has been a “constant round of failures of leadership” that has “demonstrated a culture which needs to change”.

The leader of the civil service union told Sky News: “We’ve been saying for some time that the processes need to improve. We’ve had a conversation with the speaker, I think he wants to make improvements in the way these things are dealt with.

“But we really need action. We need to be sure that people who have been the subject of allegations are able to be kept away from the parliamentary estate or the workplace. And the most important thing for people to remember here is that people need to be safe and need to be confident about going about their business.”

Clancy said: “There needs to be a victim-centred approach, we need to be clear about how these processes are going to be handled. Good employers do this all the time. Sophisticated employers have processes and procedures to ensure that the rights of victims, those who are the subject of complaints, are properly handled.”

“We have a new Prime Minister potentially from Monday and this is an opportunity to reset the culture and show the leadership that hasn’t been there in the past,” the union leader added.

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