Posted: Fri 23rd Jul 2021

Women’s Equality Party park digital billboard outside Delyn MP Rob Roberts office as they call for urgent changes to the Recall Act

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jul 23rd, 2021

If you were in Mold on Thursday, you may have spotted a digital billboard van bearing the slogan “Love harassing your staff but hate the negativity that surrounds it? Become an MP.”

The Women’s Equality Party launched a campaign – outside the office of Delyn MP Rob Roberts – to highlight that “Westminster continues to be a haven for abusers”.

Mr Roberts was suspended for six weeks after he was found to have sexually harassed an employee.

A report by an Independent Expert Panel (IEP), found the Delyn MP made repeated and unwanted sexual advances towards a former member of staff.

Mr Roberts also made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature and was overly intrusive about his personal life.

The Delyn MP had the whip was removed from him by the Conservatives, although he remains a member of the party, he now sits in Parliament as an independent MP.

Mr Roberts won’t face a petition that could trigger a by-election.

A Recall Petition to allow constituents to force a by-election is automatically triggered when an MP is suspended for more than 10 sitting days or they are convicted of a criminal offence.

However, Parliamentary rules mean that to trigger a Recall Petition, a ruling must come from a committee of the house such as the Standards Committee.

It means an allegation of financial misconduct for example can trigger an MP’s recall and therefore a by-election, but a potentially more serious allegation of sexual misconduct cannot because it goes through the IEP.

A motion to change standing orders to close the recall loophole was tabled on Tuesday, but was not retrospective, meaning it wouldn’t trigger a Recall Petition in the case of the Delyn MP.

Labour tabled an amendment to make the change retrospective but that failed.

Sir Stephen Irwin chairman of the IEP said the rule change, proposed by Labour, would threaten the group’s independence and he was “seriously concerned” by the plan.

Westminster Parliament is heading into recess having failed to bring in vital, urgent changes to the Recall Act which would allow constituents to fire sex pest MPs.

The digital billboard van forms part of the Women’s Equality Party’s campaign to change the Recall Act so constituents can sack MPs found guilty of abuse or harassment, “this campaign is intended to draw attention to the continuing failure of the Government to tackle abuse within its own ranks.” Women’s Equality Party Leader, Mandu Reid said.

She added: “It is absurd that a lower threshold of acceptable behaviour seems to apply in Westminster than in other walks of life, when if anything, Westminster should be setting an example.”

“It is outrageous that the Conservative government has allowed Rob Roberts to return to Parliament, speak in debates and vote as if the issue is out of their hands when they have long held the power to ensure MPs who sexually harass staff can be held accountable by their constituents.”

“Whilst the government has finally acknowledged the need for changes to recall and brought forward a bill – as the Women’s Equality Party has been calling for since the 2017 Pestminster scandal – they have wasted this opportunity to take decisive action before recess and continue to protect Rob Roberts.” Said Ms Reid.

“Rob Roberts will return to his constituency for the summer, and constituents who might understandably not feel able to ask him for help will be left with nowhere to turn.”

“This is a failing of democracy orchestrated by this corrupt Conservative government to avoid a difficult by-election, putting playing politics before people.”

“Harassment and sexual assault are always about the abuse of power – a pattern which plays out in households, workplaces, and communities up and down the UK, fuelling escalating rates of rape and domestic violence. ”

“But violence and abuse are not inevitable and perpetrators must be held to account everywhere, including Westminster.” The Women’s Equality Party Leader said.

“This campaign highlights that our political system must hold abusive men to account, and to do that constituents must be empowered to sack MPs who are found guilty of harassment or abuse by a court or the independent process without exception. ”

“The Women’s Equality Party demands that the government progresses legislation to change this as soon as MPs return to Parliament and that it stops protecting Rob Roberts.”

Currently MPs can be recalled for lying about their expenses or following a 14 day suspension from the Commons by a Parliamentary Committee, but this excludes the vital independent complaints process which investigates allegations of sexual harassment or abuse. ”

“The result is that perpetrators aren’t held to account, creating a culture in which this behaviour is a sinister norm. ”

“The Women’s Equality Party demands the government ends this haven for perpetrators and rightly empowers voters to recall their MPs in such cases. ” Ms Reid said.

Last week Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami said Mr Roberts “behaviour to members of Commons staff has been found worthy of the strictest possible punishment Parliament can give.”

“If he hadn’t managed to get through a loophole in the rules on recall, he’d no longer be an MP.”

Mr Tami said: “Everyone has the right to be safe at work. That applies to people who work in Parliament too.”

“If anyone else behaved as Mr Roberts has in Parliament, they’d be barred from wherever they did it. It’s not right that there’s one rule for him and another for everyone else.”

“It’s also a serious safeguarding concern that he can return to his old stalking ground without any kind of protection from him for vulnerable people.” The Alyn and Deeside MP said.

“Labour has consistently called for him to do the decent thing and resign, and we have called on the Government to fix the loophole and force his hand. Quite frankly, the people of Flintshire deserve better.” Mr Tami added.

We approached Rob Roberts office for a comment.

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