Published: 12:06, 02 August 2020
| Updated: 12:52, 03 August 2020
Labour has said it is “shocking” that a Tory MP reportedly under investigation over rape allegations has not had the whip suspended.
According to reports, a Conservative MP and ex-minister has been arrested after a woman accused him of rape, sexual assault and coercive control.
While pending a police investigation for a sexual crime, I think it is only right that the whip is withdrawn
Shadow safeguarding minister Jess Phillips has criticised the Tories for failing to suspend the whip from the Tory MP in question, a move that would effectively eject him from the party.
Speaking to Times Radio, the Labour MP said: “It is very difficult to comment on the case itself, because it is quite rightly in front of the criminal justice system.
“But what I would say in this matter, is in any organisation – especially one like Members of Parliament who every day work with vulnerable people, young activists, members of staff – in any other organisation, were this police investigation to be going on, somebody would be suspended while the investigation was taking place.”
Calling the lack of action “shocking”, Ms Phillips said it sent a “terrible message” that senior figures were still able to secure “protection” from their Westminster status.
She added: “While pending a police investigation for a sexual crime, I think it is only right that the whip is withdrawn.”
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said he did not know the name of the MP involved, but added that he was “confident” the party was taking the matter seriously.
“I’ve read the accusations in the newspapers this morning but I don’t know more than you do in that respect,” the Cabinet minister told Times Radio.
“These are very serious allegations and they should be investigated.
“They’re in the hands of the police, so I don’t think I can comment any more than that.”
Asked whether he personally wanted to see the Tory whip removed from the MP under police investigation, Mr Jenrick said: “We need to take allegations of this nature very seriously and I’m confident that the party is, and will do.”
The Metropolitan Police said they received allegations on Friday of sexual offences and assault relating to four separate incidents at addresses in London, including in Westminster, between July last year and January this year.
A spokesman for the Met said: “The Met has launched an investigation into the allegations.”
A man was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of rape and was taken into custody at an east London police station, the force added. He has been released on bail to a date in mid-August.
Mr Jenrick said Parliament “needs to be” a safe environment for young women to work in.
He told Times Radio: “There has clearly been some very difficult allegations and cases in recent years.
“We need to make sure, like any other workplace, it is one that’s fit for everybody, where everybody feels safe and comfortable working, and when allegations are raised they are treated with the seriousness they deserve.”
The papers said the allegations were raised with Tory Chief Whip Mark Spencer, and the complainant also spoke to him, but no action was taken.
The PA news agency understands Mr Spencer advised her to make a formal complaint to the authorities, who would be able to investigate the claims.
A spokesman for Mr Spencer said: “The Chief Whip takes all allegations of harassment and abuse extremely seriously and has strongly encouraged anybody who has approached him to contact the appropriate authorities, including Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which can formally carry out independent and confidential investigations.”
A Conservative Party spokesman said: “We take all allegations of this nature extremely seriously. As this matter is now in the hands of the police it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The investigation comes days after former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in a separate case of sexually assaulting two women, one of whom was a parliamentary worker.
Elphicke had the whip removed in November 2017 when the allegations first surfaced but it was controversially restored before a confidence vote in Theresa May’s leadership the following year.
However, when Elphicke was formally charged in July 2019, the party suspended him again on the same day.