MPs should stay out of Parliament’s bars to clean up Westminster sexism culture, Ben Wallace says

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Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, is pictured in Westminster this morning - Alamy Live News

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, is pictured in Westminster this morning – Alamy Live News

Ben Wallace today suggested MPs should “avoid” Parliament’s bars as he called for a change to the “culture” in the House of Commons amid claims of inappropriate and sexist behaviour in Westminster.

The Defence Secretary said that “we all know what happens when you mix long hours, drink and pressure environments”.

He said there have been a “range of allegations that go right across the House, go right across the parties” about unacceptable conduct and “this is a problem I think about the overall culture” which must be changed.

His comments came after it emerged a male Conservative MP is being investigated over claims he watched pornography in the Commons chamber.

The initial allegation was made by two female MPs at a meeting with senior party figures on Tuesday evening when a string of other sexism claims were also voiced.

The allegation has now been referred to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. A Conservative spokesman said: “Upon the conclusion of any investigation, the Chief Whip will take appropriate action.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

08:41 AM

Ben Wallace: ‘Of course I would like more money for my department’

Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, last night called for more defence spending as she said the West has overseen a “generation of underinvestment” which led to the invasion of Ukraine (you can read the full story here).

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said this morning that he would like to see the Ministry of Defence budget increased but insisted current funding levels are sufficient.

Mr Wallace said the Treasury is reimbursing the MOD for the cost of the equipment it is donating to Ukraine and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has been “incredibly supportive”.

Asked if he would like more funding, Mr Wallace said: “I think if you had any secretary of state of any department sitting on your sofa and asking them if they would like more money for their department, of course I would like more money for my department.”

Mr Wallace said he is “absolutely set” from a budget point of view for this year and next year but there will likely be questions about funding beyond that.

08:32 AM

Ben Wallace hints UK could help Ukraine push Russia out of Crimea

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has suggested the UK could continue to provide military aid to Ukraine if it tries to push Russia out of Crimea.

He told Sky News that the “international community believes Russia should leave Ukraine” following its “illegal” annexation in 2014.

Mr Wallace said: “We don’t recognise it and we have constantly said that Russia should leave Ukraine sovereign territory so that hasn’t changed.”

Asked if the UK is contemplating continuing to support Ukraine should it push into Crimea, Mr Wallace said: “There is a long way to go before Ukraine… I think what I would certainly say is we are supporting Ukraine’s sovereign integrity, we have done that all along, that of course includes Crimea and Donetsk.

“But first and foremost let’s get Russia out of where they are now in its invasion plans.”

08:18 AM

‘We have to help the Ukrainians get the limpet off the rock’

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said he believes Russia could try to “dig in” and secure any territory it has gained in Ukraine as he said the UK must continue to help Kyiv “get the limpet off the rock”.

He told Sky News: “It is certainly the case that Putin, having failed in nearly all his objectives may seek to consolidate what he has got, sort of fortify and dig in as he did in 2014 and just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country of Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions.

“So I think it is really about if we want this to not happen, we have to help the Ukrainians effectively get the limpet off the rock and keep the momentum pushing them back.”

08:08 AM

MP accuses shadow cabinet member of making lewd comment

A female MP has accused a member of Labour’s shadow cabinet of making a lewd comment about her.

The MP, who spoke anonymously to the BBC, described a conversation she had with a Labour frontbencher at an event.

The shadow cabinet member allegedly described her as a “secret weapon” because “women want to be her friend” and men want to sleep with her.

The MP is said to have decided not to make a formal complaint.

A Labour spokesman told the BBC that the party “takes all complaints extremely seriously” and they are “fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures, and any appropriate action is taken”.

07:50 AM

Ben Wallace warns of ‘poisonous’ mix in Parliament

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, was asked during an interview on Times Radio if he had ever witnessed sexism in Parliament.

He told Times Radio: “What I have witnessed is, what I think is the fundamental problem of Westminster, is the overall culture is that, you know, hundreds and hundreds of people working long hours in a place with bars, and for some people, under lots of pressure for all sorts of reasons, and that mix becomes poisonous and I think we see all sorts of problems.

“That’s been going on for decades. And it’s not easy to fix. But I think you know, these things are problems. But also, you know, remember, Parliament reflects society, and all of us in our lives going about day to day business, see things that are unacceptable in our lives and that’s no difference in Parliament.”

07:43 AM

‘My advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars’

Ben Wallace said “we’ve seen lots of problems in the bars [in Parliament] over the decades” including “fights”, “sexist comments” and “propositions”.

The Defence Secretary told Times Radio: “I mean, my advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars, you know, finish your day’s work and go home.

“But you know, that that is part of the ultimate challenge around Parliament that I think needs to be fixed. And you know, in the armed forces, I have a similar challenge, which is often in those high pressure environments where people mix and then alcohol is consumed, you end up in a place where people do things, either they regret, or things that is totally unacceptable.”

07:38 AM

Ben Wallace calls for change in ‘culture’ in Westminster

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said he believes the “culture” in Westminster needs to change as he expressed concerns about MPs visiting bars in Parliament.

He told Sky News: “This is a problem I think about the overall culture of the House of Commons. It is late sitting, long nights with bars and that very often leads, and it has done for decades, to behavioural challenges and problems, whether that is too much drink…”

He added: “We all know what happens when you mix long hours, drink and pressure environments.

“I think it is really important that we think about ways to change the culture in the House of Commons so it doesn’t happen.”

07:36 AM

Ben Wallace: ‘No place for pornography in any work place’

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has said there can be no excuse for watching pornography in the House of Commons.

He told Sky News: “There is no place for pornography in any work place. People are there to do their job.

“I know that the chief whip has referred that complaint to the panel or the conduct authority and will look into that and if there is any action to be done then there should be action taken.

“I don’t think there is any excuse. You don’t sit in your workplace looking at pornography.”

07:34 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today’s politics live blog.

Parliament is due to prorogue later today as the current parliamentary session draws to a close ahead of the Queen’s Speech on May 10.

Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, is on the morning broadcast round for the Government.

I will guide you through the key lines.

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