The politician, in his fifties, whose identity cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, was held on Saturday over allegations of rape, sexual assault and coercive control. He has been released on bail until the middle of this month as police continue an investigation.
Business and industry minister Nadhim Zahawi described the latest allegations as “very serious” but defended the decision not to withdraw the whip from the MP, telling Sky: “It’s right for us to wait until the police conclude their investigation and then you’ll be hearing from the chief whip as to what action will be taken.”
The arrest came the day after Charlie Elphicke, a former Tory whip, was separately found guilty of sexually assaulting two women in 2016 and 2017.
However, the decision on the new allegations has angered some female Tory colleagues. One former minister told the Standard: “He should be suspended whilst this is investigated, as Elphicke was.”
The former minister is alleged to have assaulted a woman — reported to be an ex-parliamentary employee — and forced her to have sex. The abuse is alleged to have taken place during a relationship.
The Metropolitan Police said the allegations related to four separate incidents alleged to have taken place between July 2019 and January 2020.
Jess Phillips, the shadow safeguarding minister, said it was “shocking” that the Tory whip had not been withdrawn from the accused MP. She told ITV: “I’m not sure that I’d want to send my child to a school where a teacher had been arrested and bailed for the crime of rape and sexual assault. I would expect in those circumstances — as is safeguarding law — that those people would be suspended pending further investigation. The Prime Minister has to answer the question this morning: is he happy for a young woman who might have been raped or abused to go and seek today advice from this person and that there is absolutely no safeguarding concerns there?”
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for women’s rights, told Times Radio: “That individual should have been suspended pending an investigation. Really what we ought to be thinking about is how do we give victims confidence in the process?”
Scotland Yard said a man was arrested on Saturday and taken into custody at an east London police station before being bailed. A spokesman for Mark Spencer, the chief whip, said: “These are serious allegations and it is right that they are investigated fully. The whip has not been suspended. This decision will be reviewed once the police investigation has been concluded.”
Former Tory Education Secretary Justine Greening told Sky: “I think what it does seem to underline is that although Parliament has made progress there’s clearly much more work that needs to be done to make Parliament a work place that is fit for the 21st century.”