Sat, 15 June 2024

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By Baroness Smith of Llanfaes
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Minister Says Westminster Has A "Fundamental Problem" With Work Culture As MPs Reckon With Sexism Scandal

3 min read

There is a “fundamental problem” with Westminster work culture, which has been created by a “poisonous” mix of drinking and long hours, the defence secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Speaking on Times Radio this morning, Wallace said MPs should “avoid the bars, finish your day’s work and go home”.

His comments come as parliament finds itself once again reckoning with allegations that Westminster is not a healthy or safe place for women to work.

On Wednesday, a Conservative MP was accused of having been caught by female colleagues watching pornography in the Commons chamber.

During a meeting of around 40 – 50 Tory parliamentarians on Tuesday evening, women shared their experiences of sexism and misogyny in parliament, including incidents of witnessing porn being viewed in the chamber and during committees.

The accused MP, who has not been named, will be investigated by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme (ICGS) after Conservative whips asked that the matter be referred to the non-partisan body.

"Upon the conclusion of any ICGS investigation, the chief whip will take appropriate action," a spokesperson for chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said.

Speaking on Sky News this morning, Wallace said “there is no place for pornography in any workplace”.

“People are there to do their job,” the defence secretary said.

“I know the chief whip has referred that complaint to the conduct authority and we’ll look into that, and if there is any action to be done then there should be action taken,” he added.

“I don’t think there is any excuse – you don’t sit at your workplace looking at pornography.”

Discussing Westminster work and party culture, Wallace told Times Radio on Thursday morning he has witnessed fights, sexist comments and propositions.

The defence secretary said he has seen behaviour that is “unacceptable” but added that Westminster’s problem culture “has been going on for decades” and is “not easy to fix”.

“You see people make comments and think, I wouldn’t say that,” he remarked.

This week Westminster has found itself grappling with an onslaught of allegations from women across the political spectrum that national British politics has a serious issue with sexism and misogyny.

The reckoning follows the publication of an article in the Mail on Sunday that made unfounded accusations that deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner deliberately tries to distract Boris Johnson while he is at the despatch box by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

The article catalysed an uproar from women across parliament, including MPs, staffers and journalists.

The Mail on Sunday since doubled down on its story, accusing Rayner of herself telling Tory MPs that she uses her legs in a “Basic Instinct” ploy to distract the Prime Minister.

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