Gemma White QC led the inquiry that revealed a raft of complaints about MPs (Image: Blackstone Chambers)
Investigators uncovered cases of serious sexual assault as they documented a disgraceful misuse of power and privilege at Westminster. Sexual harassment included MPs’ unwanted attempts to kiss and fondle employees, the report revealed. The inquiry, led by Gemma White QC, also revealed a raft of complaints about staff being belittled, shouted at and forced to carry out menial tasks.
One worker was made to vacuum and dust their MP’s home ahead of a private party. Another said MPs treated researchers as “their bitch” and others told of being asked to look after children and pets. Another employee said they were contacted at all hours including while they were on holiday and “when I had to urgently visit a dying family member on compassionate leave”.
Ms White wrote: “Many of the experiences related to me were of unwelcome sexual advances, often accompanied by attempts at kissing.
“Many involved some form of unwanted touching, for example breasts being grabbed, buttocks being slapped, thighs being stroked and crotches being pressed/rubbed against bodies.
“Some contributors described members expressing uncontrollable rage, screaming that staff were ‘******* useless” or “******* idiots’ in front of other staff, other members and/or constituents.”
Ms White’s report said some of those who reported shouting and screaming also told of objects – “usually pieces of office equipment, sometimes heavy” – being thrown in anger, “in some cases at them”.
But one intern told the inquiry: “As long as getting political jobs in Parliament is dependent on who you know and who you’re related to, sexual harassment will be a necessary evil for ambitious young… people like me who will choose our careers over our comfort every time.”
Ms White heard from 220 people in the course of her inquiry into so-called “Pestminster” allegations in Parliament.
She said most MPs treated their staff with dignity and respect but that bullying and harassment was “sufficiently widespread” to mean urgent action must be taken.
She said measures already in place were not enough.
“Many describe the idea of complaining about bullying and haras-sment under the new complaints procedure as ‘career suicide’,” she added.
Ms White was brought in last year following a highly critical earlier report