Labour ‘would embed good employment practices’ in Parliament

A Labour government “would embed good employment practices” in Parliament and restore public trust in politicians, which has hit “rock bottom,” the shadow leader of the Commons has said.

“People are sick to the back teeth of the Westminster soap opera,” Labour MP Lucy Powell said in a speech to the Institute for Government think tank on Tuesday.

She said trust has plummeted after political scandals over expenses, sleaze, cronyism and Partygate.

“I’m not laying all this at the door of the Conservatives – there are bad apples everywhere who reflect badly on us all – but I think the sheer scale we’ve seen in this Parliament really means that we’ve reached rock bottom,” Ms Powell said.

The Manchester Central MP said if Labour is elected, its focus would be on rebuilding trust in politicians, making legislative scrutiny better and improving the culture of Parliament.

“We’ll look at how we can embed good employment practices tackling abuse and harassment in Parliament,” she said.

“I absolutely recognise the constitutional role of members of Parliament and what an extraordinary step this is but this is what would happen in most professional workplaces and it’s right that we’ve agreed it.”

The issue has been “a cloud over the Commons for many years” and the outcome of that “lengthy and difficult process” shows that it is possible to change the way Parliament operates, she said.

Ms Powell also said that while great strides have been made to make Parliament more family friendly and welcoming, “the new front in putting good people off becoming or remaining MPs” is the rise of threats and abuse to those in public office, especially women and those of black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

She also said fast-track legislation is being overused and that policy announcements should be made first in Parliament, rather than elsewhere, “because there’s no tougher crowd or feared audience than the chamber of the House of Commons.”

The shadow Commons leader criticised the so-called “zombie parliament”. The average length of a Commons sitting day has fallen to just seven hours and nine minutes since the current session started in November, marking a record low since 1997, according to analysis by the Financial Times in March.

“All parties have a responsibility to ensure good conduct, standards and culture, and good government. No one is suggesting an easy fix, turning the page will require hard work, but Labour is prepared to do the hard yards,” Ms Powell said.

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