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Kwasi Kwarteng Says "Bad Apples" To Blame For Sexism In Westminster

Kwasi Kwarteng has denied there is a culture of sexism in Westminster

3 min read

Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted that Parliament is a safe place for women as he denied there was a widespread culture of sexism.

The business secretary said allegations of widespread sexism and misogyny were "extraordinary" after it was revealed that 56 MPs were allegedly being investigated for sexual misconduct, but denied ever witnessing any incidents.

It comes after disgraced Tory MP Neil Parish was forced to resign on Saturday after admitting that he had twice watched pornography in the House of Commons chamber in a "moment of madness".

Parish's behaviour came to light after a meeting of female Conservative MPs earlier this week where they discussed the growing problem of sexism and misogyny within Westminster.

But speaking on Sunday, Kwarteng suggested a small number of "bad apples" were to blame for the behaviour, and said the "general environment" was not sexist.

"I think it is [safe for women]. I think we have to distinguish between some bad apples, people who behave badly, and the general environment," he said.

"It is very similar to when people say: 'Oh well there are a number of racist people in this country so that means the whole country is racist'. That doesn't follow. There are some bad apples, there are people who have acted very badly and they should be held to account."

And asked about claims that pubs in Westminster were to blame for creating an unprofessional atmosphere, Kwarteng added that while some people acted "irresponsibly", he would not back any plans to limit access to them.

"No, they shouldn't all be shut," he said. "I don't think we should have an excessively puritanical severe regime in that regard."

His comments came after Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the government of repeatedly delaying investigations into misconduct by Tory MPs, saying "a fish rots from the head".

"What we have seen from this government, time and again, is when one of their own gets into difficulty, into a problem, they've done something they shouldn't have...their first instinct is to push it off into the long grass and hide what is happening," he told Sky's Sophy Ridge.

"That is a political problem, because a fish rots from the head, and there needs to be political leadership on this as well. And we haven't seen that yet from the Conservative party."

But Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has called for urgent reform working practices in a bid to clean up Westminster, including plans to review new employment terms for staff.

Writing for The Observer, Hoyle added: "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, which we must address as a matter of urgency. 

"It is imperative we do the right thing by staff, and MPs as well."

Meanwhile, Conservative MP and former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, who helped create the current grievance and complaints scheme, said further resources were needed to beef up investigations into claims of bullying and sexual harassment.

"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," she told The Sunday Times.

"It's only when you see people being blind drunk and subject to the appropriate sanctions that people will start to think twice about their behaviour."

Leadsom, the primary architect of reforms passed in the wake of Westminster's #MeToo scandal four years ago, has told The House that she is “grieved” they have not “passed the test” of “fundamentally… [changing] the culture of Parliament for the better, so everyone would be treated with dignity and respect”.

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