Iain Duncan Smith welcomes steps that are being taken to tackle harassment and abuse in Parliament but calls for speedy action when Members are suspended by their Party whilst under investigation but are able to continue acting as an MP.
I fully support and congratulate my right hon. Friend on acting so speedily and working in a cross-party manner to get this situation reconciled, and I fully support everything that has been said. I agree that there is a real issue about separating sexual harassment from other charges and think that will have to be looked at separately.
I have two points to make, however, in observation. First, the parties keep on stating that they must have their own party procedures. There is, however, a real issue here. What we get is parties acting, by, for instance, suspending the whip from an MP, but they are still an MP and carry on with duties and responsibilities here in the House. How swift and co-located can the process be with what goes on in the House in terms of investigations? MPs stand accused, and the longer this goes on, the more difficult it becomes for them to do their job, or should they be doing their job at all? I ask my right hon. Friend to look carefully at that, because if there is a false charge, we need to get that cleared up quickly. The dichotomy between an MP having a suspended party membership but still working as an MP could end up being the problem.
My right hon. Friend raises an important point, which the working party has acknowledged needs to be resolved. He is right that if somebody stands accused, it is difficult to be clear how to proceed where a party procedure might make a decision to take action on the whip and there is an ongoing grievance or, indeed, a criminal procedure in another area in terms of either the police or this grievance and complaints procedure. My right hon. Friend therefore raises an important point, which the working party will look at, but we do not as yet have the answer.