Women in Westminster - a farewell blog

As I prepare to leave the political beat to move abroad, I thought I'd dedicate my last ITV News blog to the issue of women in Westminster.

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Sex-swap MEP fell out with Ukip after 2009 election

Nikki Sinclaire, who has revealed she underwent sex change surgery more than 20 years ago, was elected as an MEP in 2009 for Ukip but left the party months later.

Ukip claim she was kicked out for refusing to sit with their eurosceptic partners Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD).

Miss Sinclaire said she quit the EFD because it contained "extreme elements", including people with "openly homophobic opinions".

West Midlands Police arrested her in February last year as part of a probe into allowances and expenses but she denies the allegations, she told the Sun on Sunday. She remains on bail.

MEP revealed 'great secret' in autobiography

Nikki Sinclaire, seen in 2011 at Downing Street as she helped deliver a 100,000 name petition for a referendum on Britain's EU membership. Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive

Nikki Sinclaire has written about her "great secret" in a new autobiography, titled Never Give Up.

The foreword for her book tells how until now only Ms Sinclaire's family and close friends were aware of her sex change past.

"She insists it is only one facet of her life," the foreword reads. "And though it tormented her childhood and teenage years, it is one that no longer dominates her or her future."

The We Demand A Referendum Now MEP for the West Midlands said she does not want it to stand in the way of her ambition to become a cabinet minister at Westminster.

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MEP reveals she had sex change surgery at 23

Nikki Sinclaire was elected as an MEP in 2009 for Ukip but was kicked out for refusing to sit with the party's eurosceptic partners. Credit: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive

An MEP has revealed she is Britain's first "sex change parliamentarian" after undergoing surgery to alter her gender more than 20 years ago.

Nikki Sinclaire, 45, told The Sun on Sunday "I don't want my past to overshadow it and believe my constituents will continue to support me."

She told the newspaper how she suffered depression throughout her teenage years and "knew she was different" before undergoing the operation at the age of 23.

Westminster plays down 300,000 porn hits

Westminster officials sought to play down the almost 300,000 attempts to access online porn made inside the premise, insisting it was inflated by pop-ups, auto-refresh and other web design features.

They are also investigating the reason for wide variations between the monthly figures - with as many as 114,844 in November but just 15 in February.

We do not consider the data to provide an accurate representation of the number of purposeful requests made by network users due to the variety of ways in which websites can be designed to act, react and interact and due to the potential operation of third party software.

– A House of Commons spokeswoman

The figures were obtained in a freedom of information (FOI) request made by Huffington Post UK.

300,000 attempts to access porn from Parliament

Parliament
There were 300,000 attempts to access online porn from within Westminster last year, records show. Credit: PA

Computer users within Parliament tried to access pornography nearly 300,000 times last year, records show.

The figure - which represents more than 800 hits per day - was made public after a freedom of information request was put to Palace of Westminster IT chiefs.

It covers devices linked to the Parliamentary Network, including those used by MPs and peers, their staff and other employees.

Commons Speaker pushing for MPs' higher salaries

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Speaker John Bercow is among MPs who have been pushing for better remuneration, warning that the Commons must attract people from all backgrounds.

Mr Bercow's comments follow an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) survey which found politicians on average believed they should be paid £86,000 rather than £66,000, with some demanding more than £100,000.

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TaxPayers Alliance: MPs 'should not get £20k pay rise'

Politicians should not get huge pay hikes when public sector workers are facing pay cuts, the chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliances said today, after it was announced that MPs could be in line for a dramatic pay rise of up to £20,000. Matthew Sinclair said:

MPs are already very well paid, and have other perks like gold-plated pensions that most taxpayers could never afford for themselves.

There can't be one rule for MPs and another for the rest of the country. If politicians accept this rise it will send out completely the wrong message about pay restraint from the heart of Westminster.

Read more: MPs in line for a pay rise of up to £20,000

MPs in line for a pay rise of up to £20,000

MPs could have an extra £20,000 added to their salaries to help partly offset curbs to their pensions and personal expenses.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been carrying out a fundamental review since taking responsibility for MPs' salaries two years ago.

Officials are concerned that David Cameron and other party leaders may find it difficult to back such an increase
Officials are concerned that David Cameron and other party leaders may find it difficult to back such an increase Credit: Press Association

A survey released by the watchdog in January found politicians on average believed they should be paid £86,000 rather than £66,000 with some demanding more than £100,000.

Ipsa is due to deliver its initial proposals for consultation next month. The main changes will not come into effect until after the general election in 2015.

Prosecutors consider former MP expense charges

Prosecutors are considering further evidence from police over disgraced former MP Denis MacShane's abuse of expenses.

Denis MacShane
Denis MacShane Credit: Press Association

Scotland Yard reopened its investigation into the ex-Labour minister in the wake of a damning report. The Standards and Privileges Committee found he faked receipts to receive thousands of pounds of public money, prompting Mr MacShane to quit the Commons rather than face a 12-month suspension.

In a statement the CPS said: "Earlier this year, we provided the police with further investigative advice in relation to this case, following which the police reopened their investigation.

"We have received the results from their further inquiries and are considering the position to determine whether a charging decision can now be made."

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