Seventy-eight MPs have still not attended a Parliamentary anti-bullying and harassment course, according to House of Commons records obtained by VICE News via Freedom of Information request.
The Valuing Everyone course was made available to all workers on the Parliamentary estate in 2018 after the 2017 “Pestminster” scandal involving several allegations of sexual misconduct against various MPs, including ministers. As a House of Commons spokesperson explained to VICE News, the training aims to “ensure everyone can recognise bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct and feels confident taking action to tackle and prevent it”.
And yet, according to data from the 30th of September – and confirmation from the House of Commons that the training hasn’t taken place on the 1st or 2nd of October – the session is yet to be attended by:
- 72 Conservative MPs
- 2 SNP MPs
- 2 DUP MPs
- 2 Labour MPs
As VICE News revealed in late August, as of the 22nd of July, the last day of Parliament’s summer term, 163 MPs – 140 of them Conservatives, including the Prime Minister and 15 Cabinet Members – hadn’t attended the training. By comparison, seven Labour MPs – including former leader Jeremy Corbyn – hadn’t attended.
At the time, VICE News approached the Cabinet Office for comment on the fact that more than half of the Cabinet – who’d committed to “protect people from physical attack or harassment whether for their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability” in their election-winning manifesto – hadn’t attended. In its response, the Cabinet Office said it would book every single Cabinet minister and the Prime Minister onto training sessions, several of which took place during the summer recess.
Soon enough, Boris Johnson - a man who, way back in 1996, wrote an article for The Telegraph assessing the “hot totty” at the Labour conference - attended the course. One news report suggested he found this training session “most informative”.
Today, of the 78 MPs who still haven’t attended, according to the FOI, 31 Conservatives, one SNP MP, one Labour MP and one DUP MP are on the waiting list for an upcoming session. This includes six Cabinet ministers: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps; Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden; Environment Secretary George Eustice; Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab; Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis; and Liz Truss, International Trade and Equalities Secretary and MP for South West Norfolk
But what of the other 44 MPs - 41 of them Tories, one SNP, one DUP, one Labour - who, the data states, aren’t yet booked to attend? Have they not felt encouraged by the knowledge that, if the Prime Minister has spared some time to do this, maybe they could too?
Little appears to have changed since the Pestminster scandal.
Until recently, one of their peers was Charlie Elphicke, the former Conservative MP who is now serving two years in jail for sexually assaulting two women, including a former employee. Another Tory MP (who cannot be named for legal reasons) was recently arrested on suspicion of rape, but has not yet had the whip withdrawn.
Mike Hill, a Labour MP, is under investigation following allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault (Hill has denied the allegations), while Rob Roberts, a Conservative MP, has admitted to inappropriate behaviour towards junior staffers. There’s also Labour’s Claudia Webbe, the MP for Leicester East, who was recently charged with one count of harassment (the case is ongoing).
Perhaps it’s just that the MPs who haven’t booked their place on this course simply agree with Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, whose distaste for the training was made clear when he recently explained, “It was two hours of jolly conversation with some colleagues that I liked very much. But to be honest, it was a total waste of all of our time.”
VICE News asked all the MPs who hadn’t yet attended or booked to attend this training as of this week: why not?
All MPs below are members of the Conservative Party, unless stated otherwise.
MPs who already told us they won’t attend and, true to their word, have not
Andrew Bridgen, MP for North West Leicestershire did not respond, so is presumably holding firm on his previous comment that “I don’t see it as a useful allocation of my time. No one’s ever left my employment since I’ve been an MP.”
Liam Fox, MP for North Somerset had not been aware of the training, a staffer previously told us, and has still not responded to requests for comment.
Sammy Wilson, DUP MP for East Antrim had previously asked us to “stop pestering my staff” and that all necessary information was available via FOI, so we did not pursue further comment.
MPs who did not want to comment
Gordon Henderson, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey only speaks to local press.
MPs who were booked to attend, but no longer are
John Spellar, Labour MP for Warley did not respond to a request for comment.
MPs who want to attend but haven’t booked yet
Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, who previously told us: “I have not completed the training as I have only recently returned from maternity leave and the pre-recess slots had gone. I'll look out for the publication of autumn dates.”
Sir Christopher Chope, MP for Christchurch, who previously told us he was waiting to attend along with the rest of the Procedure Committee (who, it seems, have now all attended without him).
And Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, who has confirmed his intention to attend.
MPs who booked in March, lost their place on the waiting list and still haven’t rebooked
Eleven Conservatives and one SNP MP who booked a place in March but were shunted off the waiting list due to the coronavirus crisis have still not rebooked. When approached for comment as to their plans, the following did not reply:
- Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty
- Adam Afriyie, MP for Windsor
- Lucy Allan , MP for Telford
- John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay
- Robert Courts, MP for Witney and West Oxfordshire
- Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon
- Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East
- Marcus Fysh, MP for Yeovil
- John Howell, MP for Henley
- Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham
- Kwasi Kwarteng, MP for Spelthorne
- Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire
MPs who haven’t once booked to attend a Valuing Everyone session and didn’t respond to request for comment
- Steve Brine, MP for Winchester
- James Cartlidge, MP for South Suffolk
- Sir Bill Cash, MP for Stone
- James Cleverly, MP for Braintree
- Nadine Dorries, MP for Mid Bedfordshire
- Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay
- Richard Drax, MP for South Dorset
- Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Wood Green
- John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings
- Simon Hoare, MP North Dorset
- Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham
- Jeremy Hunt, MP for South West Surrey
- Sajid Javid, MP for Bromsgrove
- Sir Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire
- Pauline Latham, MP for Mid Derbyshire
- Jack Lopresti, MP for Filton and Bradley Stoke
- Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet
- Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth South
- John Redwood, MP for Wokingham
- Julian Smith, MP Skipton and Ripton
- Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham
- Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness
- Robert Syms, MP for Poole
- Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes