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Point of Order

Volume 699: debated on Wednesday 14 July 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter relating to another Member of Parliament, sadly, whom I have of course notified, and of which I gave you prior notice.

I understand that, following the end of a six-week suspension ordered by the independent expert panel for harassment of staff, a Member has now returned to the estate, as is that Member’s right. Taking a safeguarding approach, I am concerned that we have taken every possible step to prevent and manage any possible risk. As you may know, I have some expertise in this area. Unfortunately, one of the best predictors of future risk is past behaviour. I would therefore like to know, on behalf of colleagues and staff who have raised this matter with me, in the interests of safeguarding, what risk assessment has been done of the return of that Member to the estate? Have experts been consulted? Is there is a risk management plan in place, and what guidance has been provided to staff to reassure them?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order and for having given me notice that she intended to raise it. I am pleased that she confirmed that she has notified the Member to whom she refers. Although it is not appropriate for me to comment on individual cases on the Floor of the House, I can confirm that the hon. Member’s suspension, as agreed by the House, has now come to an end. In those circumstances, the Chair has no authority to prevent a Member from attending the estate.

The hon. Lady raised concerns about safety and security of other Members and of people who work on the estate; of course, the safety and security of everyone who works here is of paramount importance to Mr Speaker and, indeed, to all of us. The House will be aware that the independent complaints and grievance scheme is in place and is designed to ensure that everyone working here feels supported and safe. The ICGS helpline is able to offer guidance and support to anyone who has witnessed or experienced bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct. There are also other forms of support for staff in the House, including the employee assistance programme. I am specifically mentioning all these matters because it is probably the case that many people who work on the estate are not aware of the support and advice available to them, and of the care that we all take about how they go about their everyday lives while in employment here.

If anybody does feel unsafe, they should speak to their manager, contact the helpline or consider using some of the other sources of support that are available. Everybody who works here should feel safe. I sincerely hope that these messages will be taken seriously. Of course, most experienced Members of Parliament are always very happy when those who work for them or in proximity to them come to them for advice or guidance on matters about which they might be concerned.

I appreciate that the hon. Lady was making a very specific point, and I have explained that the point she raised specifically is not a matter for the Chair, but it is a matter for the Chair and, indeed, for all of us to have responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of everybody who serves this place. I hope I have been able to give her some reassurance.

I will now suspend the House for two minutes while arrangements are made for the next item of business.

Sitting suspended.