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Theresa May Ignored Warnings of Sexual Harassment Incidents, Says British MP

Lisa Nandy said she brought the issue of whips covering up MPs' scandals to May’s attention in 2014.

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Amid the sexual harassment scandal surrounding the British Parliament, Indian-origin Labour MP Lisa Nandy said on Nov. 1 that Prime Minister Theresa May failed to address the abuse cases she had brought to her attention on three occasions in the past.

After Labour MP Jared O’Mara was suspended from Westminster for misogynistic abuse, other MPs alerted their parties about various leaders’ misconduct. A private WhatsApp group of the female staff members was also formed where they had discussed MPs who can be “handsy”. The MPs fear that many of them may have to resign from their position.

May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the staff members who have faced sexual harassment or abuse to contact the House of Commons authorities or police to file official complaints. In light of these incidents, Nandy came forward on Nov. 1 to inform the House that in 2014 she had brought evidence to May, who was the Home Secretary then, about how party whips exploited MPs’ misbehavior “to exert control” over them in the 1970s.

May responded to Nandy’s accusation, saying that those who were abused must go to the police to make formal complaints. In July 2014, Nandy had asked May:

“Has the Home Secretary given any thought to the new legal powers that may be needed by this child abuse inquiry but may take some time to establish? My understanding is that records kept by the Whips are not subject to freedom of information, but are subject to data protection. If the inquiry panel has no power to hold those data or compel information to be shared, how will it bring justice for survivors?”

May’s response to Nandy at the time read: “The inquiry panel that I have set up is not a statutory inquiry panel under the Inquiries Act 2005. What we have made clear, though, is that if there comes a point at which the chairman of the panel believes that its work could better be carried forward as a statutory inquiry panel under the 2005 Act, we will be prepared to change it into such a panel.”

Nandy had told the then Home Secretary that a senior Whip in the mid-1990s, who had served in 1970s, told the BBC that Whips Office helped MPs with getting rid of scandals “including those, in his own words, ‘involving small boys’.” The Whips Office later used the information to “exert control” over the MPs.

Nandy added on Nov. 1 that she had warned May that if this was not addressed incidents like these would recur.

Nandy served under Jeremy Corbyn as Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from September 2015 until June 2016. She is the daughter of Luise Nandy, the daughter of Lord Byers, who had been a Liberal Party MP, and Dipak Nandy, an Indian academic who came to the United Kingdom from Kolkata, and served as a director of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank in the country.

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