Tory MP could face independent probe after ‘watching pornography in Commons’

·4-min read
(Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)
(Nick Ansell/PA) (PA Archive)

A Tory MP who allegedly watched pornography in the Commons chamber should face an independent investigation, the party’s chief whip has said.

Chris Heaton-Harris called for the case to be referred to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) which investigates allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct.

The disciplinary process could lead to a recommendation that the MP is suspended or forced out of the Commons if a complaint is upheld.

Rachel Maclean, who is the Home Office minister responsible for safeguarding women, called for the MP to be expelled from the Conservative Party, saying the alleged behaviour was “shocking and unacceptable”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the MP should lose the whip and could face sanctions including the prospect of a by-election if they were found to have watched pornography on their phone in the chamber.

Mr Heaton-Harris called for the independent investigation after the allegations about the unnamed MP surfaced during a meeting of Tory MPs at Westminster on Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Following allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the House of Commons the chief whip has asked that this matter be referred to the ICGS.

“Upon the conclusion of any ICGS investigation the chief whip will take appropriate action.”

Chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)
Chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Wire)

Under the ICGS an investigator would examine the case and Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone would then make a decision.

In a serious case like this a sanction would normally be decided by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), which would also hear any appeal.

Only witnesses to the pornography-viewing could make a complaint about the MP under the ICGS.

Mr Wallace said “there’s no place for pornography in any workplace” and highlighted the need for a cultural change at Westminster.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I certainly think they should lose the whip.”

He also said the person “could be subject to a recall petition”, adding: “There are a range of measures, if this is proven then measures and discipline should be administered.”

This is a problem, I think, about the overall culture of the House of Commons. It is late sitting, long nights with bars, and that very often leads... to behavioural challenges

Ben Wallace

Mr Wallace told Sky News: “This is a problem, I think, about the overall culture of the House of Commons.

“It is late sitting, long nights with bars, and that very often leads, and it has done for decades, to behavioural challenges.”

On Times Radio he said the mix of long hours, high pressure and alcohol could be “poisonous”, adding: “My advice to any MP is actually avoid the bars… finish a day’s work and go home.”

Ms Maclean, who was at the meeting on Tuesday where the allegations surfaced, said everyone present had been “shocked and horrified”.

“It’s just gruesome,” she told Sky News’s The Take With Sophy Ridge.

We will see him out of Parliament, out of the party. I hope that’s where we get to

Rachel Maclean

“I’m the minister responsible for safeguarding women and for creating laws which protect women against sexual harassment and violence against women and girls, so it is deeply sickening and disgusting to hear that a male MP is watching porn.

“Action needs to be taken and I very much hope… we will see him out of Parliament, out of the party. I hope that’s where we get to.”

Tuesday’s meeting was reportedly attended by between 40 and 50 Tory MPs, including Mr Heaton-Harris, party chairman Oliver Dowden and Commons Leader Mark Spencer.

The meeting came amid reports that 56 MPs, including three Cabinet ministers, are facing allegations of sexual misconduct referred to the ICGS.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Commons “sexual harassment is intolerable” and “of course sexual harassment is grounds for dismissal” when asked about the ministers.

It also follows outrage over The Mail On Sunday publishing “sexist” and disputed claims from unnamed Tory MPs that deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tried to distract Mr Johnson with her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Conservative Party should “take action now” against the MP who allegedly watched pornography.

He said: “I think it’s very good that we’ve got an independent system and obviously that requires anonymity.

“This is an unusual case because the Tory Party knows who this individual is.

“I think that they should deal with it and deal with it sooner rather than later, and take appropriate action.

“So, nothing wrong with the independent process, but I think the Tory Party, they know who this is, they should take action now.”

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