Another week and another set of worrying allegations about harassment and assault in politics. Sadly, there has also been a tsunami of innuendo and unsubstantiated allegations against dozens of MPs, but it is imperative that a robust response to libellous tittle-tattle does not prevent action being taken against others where there is unambiguous evidence that they have abused their responsibilities. Any unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace or in our private lives is completely unacceptable and people who work in Parliament – or anywhere else – should be treated properly and fairly. It is clear there is an urgent need to have all Parties work together to sort out the complaints system and ensure that those who have concerns get the support they need quickly and comprehensively, and it has been great to see the Prime Minister’s complete commitment to working quickly to change an outdated system. Despite the differences in Parliament like long-standing traditions and odd working hours it is ultimately a workplace and should have the systems and safeguards that mean all workers’ rights are respected and working relationships are respectful. Without this in place we will fail to attract and retain the people we need to work in the bastion of democracy that is the Houses of Parliament and that would be a tragedy.
In more positive news, my good friend, the feisty female football-playing Minister Tracy Crouch announced that the Government is acting to reduce maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). While it is fun for some, for too many people gambling has become an unhealthy problem, and the availability of high stake FOBTs and easily accessible online gambling has created an industry that can turn a hobby into a dangerous addiction. The Government published on Tuesday the outcome of its gambling review, and launched a 12-week consultation on stake reduction from £100 to £2 - £50, and announced moves to ensure stronger protections around online gambling and a new industry-led responsible gambling advertising campaign to protect vulnerable people and children. Given the strong evidence and public concerns about the risks of high stakes gambling machines on the high street, I think it is completely right that we act to intervene to protect players and stop the misery that gambling addiction can bring for them and their families. If you want to have a say in the consultation it can be found on the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s website.