Published: 13:00, 04 November 2017
A veteran Kent MP has leapt to the defence of fellow MPs who have been accused of sexual harassment, insisting they must be considered innocent until proven otherwise.
Sir Roger Gale, who represents North Thanet, including Herne Bay, says the way allegations have been reported "as fact" is despicable.
The latest in the spotlight is Deal and Dover MP, Charlie Elphicke who has just been suspended by the party following "serious allegations" about his conduct. He denies any wrong doing.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Roger, 74, who has been an MP since 1983, said: "We are not treating them as allegations. We are treating them as fact."
“There are literally hundreds of decent, hardworking, honest men and women on both sides of the House of Commons who will be going out to their constituency advice surgeries, to try to help people.
“In order to do that, they need to have the trust of the people they are trying to help, and to sell tomorrow’s chip wrappings on the back of allegations that are unfounded and undermine that trust in that way I think is despicable.
“In the context, there is no proof that I can see yet of any wrongdoing. There may be things that have been done, a hand on a knee. Fine, you know, 15 years ago that may have been acceptable where it’s not today.”
Earlier this week, the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, resigned from the cabinet and an uncorroborated spreadsheet detailing claims against 40 Tory MPs, almost all of which are unverified, was circulated on social media.
Giving a hypothetical example of a woman claiming a man kissed her in a lift five years ago, Sir Roger said on Today: “How does a member of parliament, male or female, or male and male, or female and female, because everything is in this mix, how does a member of parliament refute that? It’s a witch hunt.
"Before we rush to judgment and say that everyone is guilty before they are proven innocent, we should look at the facts and decide and allow responsible people with access to look at the evidence to decide whether there actually is an accusation to be answered."
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