Unions call on Truss to crack down on sexual harassment in Westminster

Liz Truss declined to directly answer whether she would appoint a new ethics chief at a hustings last month (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)
Liz Truss declined to directly answer whether she would appoint a new ethics chief at a hustings last month (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Wire)

Unions representing civil servants has written to the newly-appointed Prime Minister calling on her to crack down on sexual harassment in Westminster.

In their letter to Liz Truss, the Prospect union and the FDA said that fresh leadership brings an opportunity to restore confidence that Parliament is a safe place to work.

As Prime Minister, Ms Truss has “the chance and the obligation” to correct the “erosion of ethics, standards in public life and public respect for, and confidence in, those who lead them”, they said.

There have been many reports of sexual assault and misconduct, bullying, and harassment, combined with a lack of leadership needed to change the culture

Letter from Prospect and FDA unions

The unions called for specific action including working with the Commons Speaker and the leaders of all parties to introduce a “formal mechanism to prevent MPs accused of serious sexual misconduct from attending Parliament”.

Ms Truss should also commit to restoring ethics and standards in public life by reconsidering her apparent suggestion that she may not appoint an independent adviser on ministers’ interests to replace Lord Geidt, they said.

At a leadership hustings last month, Ms Truss declined to directly answer whether she would appoint a new ethics chief, but said the existence of “numerous advisers and independent bodies” is “one of the problems we have got in this country”.

When asked about the role, she said: “I would put in place, if I was elected as prime minister, a strong chief whip.

“I would return them to No 12 Downing Street so they are at the heart of Government and making sure there is zero-tolerance of misbehaviour.”

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The unions’ letter states: “We write as general secretaries of trade unions representing workers on the Parliamentary estate and throughout the Civil Service about our concerns over sexual harassment and workplace culture in Westminster.

“There have been many reports of sexual assault and misconduct, bullying, and harassment, combined with a lack of leadership needed to change the culture.

“However, with a new Prime Minister and a new Parliament comes the opportunity to restore confidence that Parliament, and Westminster politics more broadly, is a safe place to work.”

They added: “As our new Prime Minister, you now have the chance and the obligation to fundamentally correct the erosion of ethics, standards in public life and public respect for, and confidence in, those who lead them.”