BARROW and Furness MP John Woodcock has broken his silence about whether or not he will try and join with the new Independent group of MPs.

Rumours were rife over whether Independent MP, Mr Woodcock, who was formerly Labour, would try to join forces with the seven MPs who have followed suit over disagreements with leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Woodcock resigned from the Labour Party in July 2018 amidst controversy surrounding a disciplinary case over a sexual harassment claim.

Anne Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna were the seven Labour MPs to quit.

Addressing his future plans Mr Woodcock said: “Over the last 24 hours, a number of people have raised the complaint that was made against me in 2017 in the context of my potential future involvement in the new Independent Group of MPs.

“Firstly, while I am delighted that my friends have had the courage to leave Labour, it is important to say that I have not yet asked to join this new group.

"Before doing so I want to understand what will be its attitude to Trident, which is fundamentally important to employment in my constituency. 

“Also, I want to be clear that the new group will have a robust and independent process for investigating grievances such as that rightly demanded by the Labour Too group, which Labour refused to apply to my complaint.

“One of the reasons I left the Labour Party was because it manipulated its disciplinary process to suspend me after I spoke out about Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the Russia Skripal attack and told friends I was considering resigning the Labour whip in disgust. 

“The decision to place details of the complaint in two Sunday newspapers shortly after this broke the confidentiality of the process against what I understand were the expressed wishes of the complainant.

“My experience has shown me that all political groups should have an independent complaints process which is transparent and deals with any matters quickly and fairly, otherwise both parties can be let down.

“I couldn’t join anything which didn’t have those robust structures in place.

“I have taken action to try and resolve the complaint made against me, but parliament’s current arrangements aren’t fit for purpose. 

“In doing so, I have contacted the parliamentary standards commissioner, the House of Commons HR department and the Leader of the House seeking a process that could investigate the issue, should the complainant still wish to do that.

“I have prepared a submission for the forthcoming review of parliament’s new independent grievance scheme, urging it to accept historical cases for investigation. 

“Its own published legal advice is clear this can be done.
“Right now, parliament’s processes are letting all sides down and I remain committed to strengthening access to justice for complainants and removing any doubt about my own status.”

A spokesman for the newly formed Independent Group spoke to national media about the suggestion of Independent MPs facing sexual harassment claims to be allowed to sit with them in Parliament.

Mr Woodcock was named in this discussion, as was Ivan Lewis, the now independent MP for Bury South, who resigned from the Labour party in December 2018, over a year after he was first suspended for sexual harassment claims.

The spokesman for the Independent Group said: “It is Day two and we’ll be meeting as a group for the first time in the coming days to settle our rules on how we admit new members.

“We’ve said we are open to those who share our values, and will welcome those who agree with us that our politics is broken and needs to change.
“It is for them to clarify the current situation about any complaint before we could consider it.”