Theresa May will write to Commons Speaker John Bercow to ask for his advice on changing a reported sexual harassment culture in Parliament.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed the PM’s plan of action on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, following Sunday paper allegations about the inappropriate behaviour of several senior MPs.
He said International Trade Minister Mark Garnier is to be investigated by the Cabinet Office after he reportedly admitted he had asked his secretary to buy sex toys for him.
Hunt said the stories, if true, were “totally unacceptable”.
Cabinet Office to investigate if MP Mark Garnier broke ministerial code, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says https://t.co/cLJ9LyFuej #marr pic.twitter.com/xmicuSp0MW — BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) October 29, 2017
“The Cabinet Office will be carrying out an investigation to see whether there has been breach of the ministerial code,” he added.
“I think it is important we recognise it is a cross-party problem. There is still a long way to go.”
The health secretary said it was important women entering jobs in politics were able to feel safe and that Theresa May would write to Bercow “to ask for his advice on how we change that culture”.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said a culture of “micro sexual aggression” had been prevalent in Parliament since she became an MP in 1987.
She described Tory members making lewd gestures in the Commons chamber when female MPs got up to speak “like they were weighing their breasts”, blaming the culture partly on “men working long hours away from home” and an attitude that “what happened in Westminster stayed in Westminster”.
“The world has moved on. Things were worse then, but there is a still a long way to go. I hope we are going to see a sea change in attitudes,” she added.
Abbott said the Labour Party had put in place systems to make it easier for victims of sexual harassment and assault to report such incidents.
Downing Street said such behaviour was “completely unacceptable” and urged women affected to report it to the police.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also warned of a “warped and degrading culture” where the abuse of women had gone unchallenged for too long.