Women MPs Outnumber Men During Commons Sex Harassment Debate

Male MPs were for once outnumbered by female colleagues as the House of Commons debated the latest sexual harassment allegations sweeping Westminster.

The gender balance in the chamber was markedly different from usual as Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom unveiled plans to offer more support for victims of misconduct and Speaker Bercow called for a new complaints process.

The switch in numbers came as some Labour MPs were accused of privately suggesting there was a “witch-hunt” against men in Parliament, and had joked that they should “fess up” to their misconduct.

At the 2017 election, a record 208 women MPs were elected, but still make up barely a third of the total.

Normally men dominate proceedings in the Commons, as just 21% of Tories and 45% of Labour MPs are female.

But on Monday, all that changed as women packed the chamber and men turned up in noticeably fewer numbers.

Early in proceedings, HuffPost UK counted 65 women and just 56 men in the Commons, giving female Parliamentarians a rare majority.

More than a third of Tory MPs present for the Urgent Question – tabled by Labour’s Harriet Harman – were women, way above their usual percentage.

Commons Leader Leadsom was flanked by Theresa May and a trio of women – Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the PM’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Seema Kennedy, and Mims Davies – sat behind them.

But gaps in the green benches were apparent and by the end of the 75-minute session, there were few Tory MPs left present.

Later in the Urgent Question, the gender balance was even more stark. On the Labour benches, women eventually outnumbered male colleagues by two to one (35 women to just 16 men on the green benches).

Labour MP Jess Phillips revealed that just before the debate, a pair of her colleagues had not been as gripped of its importance as she was.

“As I walked in here, as I rushed in here today to come to this statement, I overheard two male colleagues walking through the halls wittering about a witch hunt that was going on in Parliament,” she said.

 Newly-elected Labour MP Darren Jones also said that “on the way to this debate, I overheard two members joking about this issue, asking with humour whether they should ‘fess up’ to their sexual harassment.

“As a man, I stand up to call that out. It is not ‘bantz’, it is unacceptable.”

The Urgent Question saw several MPs call for a much tougher system to combat sexual harassment, as Speaker Bercow warned there should be “zero tolerance” of such misconduct.

Labour MP Chi Onwurah revealed that she recently complained to an officer of Parliament that she knew “a number of researchers – male and female – who had been made to feel deeply uncomfortable” by MPs in the Sports and Social Club bar in the Commons. “I was told that happens in pubs all over the country,” she said.

Plaid Cymru MP Liz Savile Roberts revealed that a Commons staff member “reported being sexually assaulted to the proper authorities earlier this year, who did nothing.”

Labour’s Tulip Siddiq said the number of misconduct cases in Westminster could run into “the hundreds”, while her colleague Rupa Huq said she had herself been groped by an MEP when she was in her twenties.

Labour’s Opposition Chief Whip, Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) chairman John Cryer and PLP complaints panel chair Baroness Primarolo wrote to all MPs on Monday night to restate the party’s complaints procedure.