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Theresa May: Abuse of power at Westminster must stop

The Prime Minister said a new 'culture of respect' must be built at parliament.

Theresa May: The PM said she is 'determined' to get the reforms rights.
Theresa May: The PM said she is 'determined' to get the reforms rights. PA

The "use and abuse of power" in Westminster must stop, Theresa May has said as she addressed the growing harassment scandal in Parliament during a speech to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Promising to restore a "new culture of respect at the centre of public life", the Prime Minister said she will meet with other Westminster party leaders later on Monday to establish a "common, robust and independent grievance procedure for Parliament".

Mrs May continued that those suffering harassment "should not have to navigate different party systems depending on their employer's political affiliation".

Admitting that "political parties have not always got this [dealing with abuse allegations] in the past", the 61-year-old said she was "determined to get it right for the future".

The Prime Minister's comments come amid a slew of allegations at Westminster which has seen two Conservative MPs and one Labour MP suspended from their parties, a Cabinet minister resign and a number of investigations launched into allegations made against other MPs.

Resigned: Sir Michael Fallon stepped down as defence secretary amid allegations of wrongdoing.
Resigned: Sir Michael Fallon stepped down as defence secretary amid allegations of wrongdoing. PA

Also in her speech the MP for Maidenhead suggested that other allegations had been made which have not yet come to light.

"A number of issues were raised with me that didn't appear in the press," Mrs May told the audience.

She continued that she would "stand up for all the victims of abuse, harassment or discrimination" by working alongside other party leaders to create "a proper process for grievance procedures, and a proper process where people can make complaints and bring procedures" so that "concerns will be fairly and properly investigated".

A proper grievance procedure would also ensure that "people's careers cannot be damaged by unfounded rumours circulated anonymously online", the Prime Minister stressed.

"Now is the time to act decisively," Mrs May said to "guarantee a safe and respectful working environment for everyone in the future".

Suspended: Charlie Elphicke has been suspended by the Tories.
Suspended: Charlie Elphicke has been suspended by the Tories. PA

On Friday, Conservative MP Charlie Elphicke had the whip suspended following serious allegations that have been referred to the police.

Mr Elphicke denied any wrongdoing, tweeting that he had not been made aware of the allegations.

"The party tipped off the press before telling me of my suspension. I am not aware of what the alleged claims are and deny any wrongdoing," he said.

While on Sunday, Conservative MP Chris Pincher "voluntarily stood down" from the Whips' Office and referred himself to the party's complaints procedure and the police following allegations over his behaviour.

On Wednesday Michael Fallon resigned as defence secretary, after he admitted his own behaviour had "fallen below the high standards required" by his role.

The shock announcement came after it emerged Sir Michael had repeatedly put his hand on a female journalist's knee at a dinner in 2002.

The 65-year-old later denied allegations he had made inappropriate sexual comments to Cabinet colleague Andrea Leadsom.

Complaint: Tory MP Chris Pincher referred himself to party bosses.
Complaint: Tory MP Chris Pincher referred himself to party bosses. Twitter

Labour too has faced allegations, with MP Kelvin Hopkins suspended over claims of inappropriate behaviour made against him by a party activist, allegations he has strongly denied.

Ava Etemadzadeh told ITV News Mr Hopkins "hugged me very tightly and rubbed his crotch on me" following an event at Essex University in 2014 and sent inappropriate text messages months later.

In a 12-point statement rejecting Ms Etemadzadeh's allegations, Mr Hopkins said: "I absolutely and categorically deny that I in any way engaged in any such inappropriate conduct."

On Friday another Labour MP, Clive Lewis, denied an allegation that he groped a woman at the party's annual conference, saying the person who made the claim was either "lying" or "wrong".

Claims have also been made against Mrs May's de facto deputy prime minister Damian Green, which Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood is looking into.

It is claimed Mr Green "fleetingly" touched young activist Kate Maltby's knee during a meeting at a pub in 2015 and a year later sent her a "suggestive" text message.

Mr Green said any allegation that he made sexual advances to Ms Maltby was "untrue (and) deeply hurtful".

While on Sunday it emerged that a Whitehall inquiry into Mr Green had been widened to look at allegations that pornographic material was found on one of his parliamentary computers.

The First Secretary of State, who is effectively Prime Minister Theresa May's deputy, has strongly denied the claims and called them a political smear.

The department is separately probing whether international trade minister Mark Garnier breached the ministerial code after he reportedly admitted asking his secretary to buy sex toys and calling her "sugar tits".

In her speech to the CBI at their annual conference, Mrs May also challenged business leaders to step up funding for research and investment to prepare the UK economy for the post-Brexit future.

The Prime Minister said UK businesses were falling short of rivals in the United States and Germany in pumping money into developing new technology.

Mrs May also sought to reassure business leaders nervous about the Government's approach to Brexit that progress was being made on securing a trade deal with an implementation period after the UK leaves the European Union in March 2019.

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