There’s still hope for Wera’s bill

[Photo credit: House of Commons photographer]

All does not seem to be lost for Bath MP Wera Hobhouses Worker Protection Bill which is in danger of being ‘timed out.’

At a recent Business Questions parliamentary session Mrs Hobhouse pressured the Government to commit to giving her bill enough time in the House of Commons to ensure its passage into law. 

Mrs Hobhouse’s Bill has cross-party and Government support. It passed all of the stages in the House of Commons and was expected to pass unopposed through the House of Lords. However, three backbench peers tabled amendments that meant the Bill could be “timed out” with not enough time given to it to complete all the legislative stages necessary in both Houses.

The Bill has come into even sharper focus since the allegations of sexual misconduct at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) were reported. Mrs Hobhouse’s Bill would place a preventative duty on employers that would see them needing to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent their employees from being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. 

The MP for Bath reminded the Leader of the House, Penny Mordaunt, that the Government has assured her of their continued support and that they are working to find a solution with the dissenting peers. Depending on if a solution is found and what form it could take, then it would potentially mean that a small amount of extra time in the Commons would be needed to resolve the remaining stages of the Bill. Bath’s MP went on to ask Mordaunt if the Government would support her in finding the extra time necessary with the Government whips.

In her response, the Leader of the House reaffirmed the Government’s support for the Bill and that the Government was working with the rebel peers to find a way to get the Bill through. She also said that the business managers in the Commons were “alive to this matter” and that they would do everything they could to “ensure that these important measures are being able to be brought forward.”

Wera Hobhouse, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, commented:

“It seems that every week we hear of more and more allegations of workplace sexual harassment. These torrents of reports must lead to real change. This Bill would be the start of that change. 

“A route through needs to be found. The legislation is too important to be allowed to wither on the vine. That is why I will be working tirelessly with Ministers to ensure that we can get these vital protections on the statute book.

“Not to be able to do so would be a grievous failure of the 10.6 million people a year who face sexual harassment in the workplace. 10.6 million people every year who should not have to be subjected to such vile and traumatic behaviour.

“Everyone deserves to work in safe and respectful environments. A shift in culture is needed in order to achieve this. My Bill would be a significant step in enacting this culture shift.”