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Constituency Staff Could Remain At Risk Despite Parliament Ban For MPs Arrested Over Sexual Assault

A union representing staff working for MPs in and out of parliament has said that a new ban on MPs who have been arrested in connection with sexual assault does not go far enough to protect those working in constituency offices.

There is also concern over the inability to enact retrospective application of changes backed in the House of Commons that mean MPs arrested for serious offences face a ban from Parliament.

Under the proposals approved in a knife-edge vote on Monday night, any MP who is arrested for a violent or sexual offence will be subject to a risk assessment by a panel, which will decide if they should be banned from the Parliamentary estate. 

MPs voted by a majority of one – 170 to 169 – in favour of bringing in the risk assessment and ban at the point of arrest. The government had wanted the threshold to be at the point of charge, but members were given a free vote. 

Jenny Symmons, chair of the GMB union’s members’ staff group, told PoliticsHome that officials would be “involved in discussions” over the coming months to make sure that the change is “implemented to the best effect,” and the process is “thorough”. 

However, she predicted that the next “headache” would be implementing a similar process for constituency offices “to protect vulnerable members of the public”. 

The rules over exclusion and suspension do not apply to the constituency office, Symmons explained, and said “that’s a whole other thing to get our heads around because Parliament doesn’t have jurisdiction over constituency offices”.

“It’’s taken us years to get to this point where we have agreed to do risk assessments for people who are arrested on suspicion of serious crimes, but it’s encouraging to get a win and we’ll keep going,” she said.  

Read more on politicshome.com