MPs just voted to keep corruption and sex harassment probes into MPs secret
Current corruption and sex harassment probes into MPs will be kept secret after a landmark vote by MPs today.
The list of MPs currently under investigation has already vanished from Parliament’s website just minutes after today’s decision in the House of Commons.
It comes after MPs agreed the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner will no longer name MPs it is investigating – until that investigation finishes.
Even then, in some cases the MP may not be named, even if they are found to be at fault.
The watchdog probes MPs who are accused of using information for financial gain, having a conflict of interest or damaging the "reputation and integrity" of the House of Commons more generally.
Until this afternoon there was a "current inquiries" page on Parliament’s website, which listed the names of MPs who were subject to ongoing probes.
But that page has now vanished after MPs agreed the watchdog "should no longer routinely publish information about individual investigations before those investigations are concluded".
Backers said the move would ensure "consistency and fairness" because Parliament’s new complaints scheme promises anonymity for both sides.
Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom said: "We need a clear run at this, so we need confidentiality and we need consistency."
But Green Party leader Caroline Lucas said: "I think the optics of this house rolling back transparency is deeply deeply worrying."
The proposals were backed by all parties. A direct bid to block the shake-up and keep names public was backed by just 22 MPs – while 79 voted not to block it.
Not a single Tory voted to block the shake-up. Twenty Labour MPs, independent John Woodcock and Green MP Caroline Lucas voted to block it.
Seventy of the 79 MPs who voted for anonymity were Tories. Five were from Labour, including shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler. Three were Lib Dems and one was from the DUP .
Under the new system, all current investigations by the Commissioner will be secret.
If only the Commissioner was involved in an investigation, and not the new system, the MP involved will be named at the end of a probe – no matter what.
If both the Commissioner and the new complaints scheme were involved, however, it is more complicated.
MPs will not be named if the complaint was not upheld and if they weren’t named in the press. Even if the complaint was upheld, the Commissioner will have regard for "proportion" and the MP’s "reputation", as well as any desire for anonymity by the complainant, before deciding whether to publish.
Labour MP Jess Phillips said if the courts could maintain both anonymity for victims and transparency for the accused, Parliament could do it too.
She said: "I do worry about how it looks in trying to pull back on transparency."
Labour MP Sir Kevin Barron said: "We perfectly agree the issue about sexual harassment and bullying and harassment needs confidentiality to make sure that people will come forward and will speak out so that actions can be taken.
"We have considered carefully the Leader’s argument for making this change and we understand why she has put them forward, but we do not think that they outweigh the reputational damage that may arise if we go ahead with this proposal as it is stated.
"It will be presented as MPs trying to cover up their misdoings."
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