Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

Boris Johnson defends decision not to suspend Tory MP arrested on suspicion of rape

Boris Johnson has defended his decision not to suspend a Tory MP from the party who was arrested on suspicion of rape.

The prime minister faced down calls from senior Labour politicians to withdraw the whip from the former minister, who has since been released on bail.

Jess Phillips, a shadow home office minister, had said it was “shocking”, adding: “In any other organisation, were this police investigation to be going on, somebody would be suspended while the investigation was taking place.”

But speaking for the first time since the MP’s arrest, Mr Johnson said he would await a decision by the police.

“I think it’s very, very important that we take all these cases extremely seriously and we will continue to do so,” he said on a visit to a building site in Warrington.

“I think we’ve got to wait for the police to decide whether they want to make charges and take a decision on that basis.”

Sky News understands the MP, who is in his 50s, was accused by a young woman who used to work in parliament.

He was arrested and taken to an east London police station on Saturday morning – then released on bail later the same day.

The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating “four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault”.

They allegedly took place in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney between July 2019 and January 2020, according to a statement.

Sky News understands the woman’s complaint was reported to a fellow MP.

It is claimed that some allegations were raised with the chief whip Mark Spencer and with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons some weeks ago.

It has been reported that Mr Spencer had not known the “magnitude” of the allegations.

It’s understood Mr Spencer told the woman to make a formal complaint to parliamentary authorities, who would investigate.

She later went to police.

A Conservative Party statement released over the weekend 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.”

A statement from Mr Spencer also 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.”

An MP who has had the whip withdrawn is not allowed to represent the party in parliament and has to sit as an independent, although they retain their seat.

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