Commons speaker Sir Lyndsay Hoyle has called for “radical” reform of parliament’s working practices following a series of scandals capped by the resignation of porn-watching Conservative MP Neil Parish.
The speaker’s comments – in an article for today’s (May 1) Observer – come after a wave of sleaze, bullying and sex-scandals at Westminster that culminated yesterday with the resignation of a Tory MP for watching porn in the Commons. That followed revelations that 56 MPs – including three cabinet and two shadow cabinet ministers – are being investigated by a parliamentary watchdog for sexual misconduct.
Hoyle said “it is time to consider radical action, and review structures and processes” after “some serious allegations” that must be addressed “as a matter of urgency”.
The speaker wants to review staff being employed directly by MPs, preferring instead a system with an outside agency employing staff that would provide an independent body for MPs and staff should concerns arise.
“At the end of the day, I want to make sure that everyone feels they have support and somewhere to turn – and to make this house not only a safe and inclusive place to work, but a model for other legislatures,” wrote Hoyle.
Porn in parliament scandal – Tory MP quits
On Saturday (April 30), Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton finally bowed to pressure to quit after he was revealed to be the MP watching pornography in the Commons.
Parish called it a “moment of madness”, despite admitting watching porn in the chamber twice. The 65-year-old married father of two, who has been an MP since 2010, claimed the second time he watched porn in parliament was a mistake after he had looked at tractors online.
“The situation was, funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at, so I did get into another website with sort of a very similar name and I watched it for a bit, which I shouldn’t have done,” Parish told BBC South West.
“My crime, my most biggest crime, is that on another occasion I went in a second time, and that was deliberate.
“That was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber.”
Cocaine, sexual abuse, bullying, partygate scandals
Parish’s resignation follows a series of parliament scandals including the two-day suspension from the Commons of Labour MP Liam Byrne who was found to have bullied a member of staff. That came just weeks after Conservative MP David Warburton was suspended from the parliamentary party over sexual harassment and cocaine use allegations. Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan was forced to resign after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
The Mail on Sunday alleged last week that Angela Rayner was using a “Basic Instinct ploy” by crossing and uncrossing her legs to distract Boris Johnson during PMQs. Today (May 1), the paper doubled down, despite the outrage caused by its original story, with Dan Hodges claiming Rayner herself was behind the smear.
Those scandals come on top of the ‘partygate’ debacle that saw the prime minister and chancellor – and some 50 other Downing Street staff – fined by police for breaking lockdown laws. The police investigation continues and more fines for Boris Johnson are anticipated.
Scandal-ridden Tories are bereft of ideas and direction, says Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer has lambasted scandal-ridden Tories who have no ideas or direction for the country ahead of Thursday’s (May 5) pivotal local elections.
In an article for today’s Observer, the Labour leader writes that Johnson’s “15th tax rise since taking office has come at the worst possible time”, compounding “the impact of rising prices, soaring bills and runaway inflation.”
The “betrayal of promises” has “made working people worse off”. Moreso, Starmer says, it “is a policy of such profound stupidity and shortsightedness, only this Tory party and this prime minister could have come up with it.”