Accused MPs are treated like terrorists, John Bercow suggests as he backs calls for Charlie Elphicke to be told details of allegations

Christopher Hope
John Bercow (L) has backed demands for transparency over the complaints procedure as Tory MP Charlie Elphicke (R) claims he is being denied justice

John Bercow has backed demands for MPs to be told details of offences they are accused of as he claimed they were being treated like terrorists.

Speaking to students at the Mile End Institute in east London, the Commons Speaker said MPs are "entitled" to be told of the allegations.

"The principle is analogous to the way we behave in relation to terrorists," he said. "We have certain standards that we insist in upholding... we believe in fair trial, we believe in innocent until proven guilty, we believe in due process."

He made the comments as Charlie Elphicke, the Dover MP who was suspended and reported to the police over unspecified allegations, said he was being "denied justice" by Theresa May and the way the party has treated him is "fundamentally wrong".

Mr Bercow said: "For God's sake that Member [of Parliament] is entitled to know of what he or she is accused and that member is entitled to learn when a judgment has been made about his situation, of that suspension first hand not first through the media."

It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are

Charlie Elphicke MP

He also said the Parliamentary code of conduct should include specific provision on harassment to protect vulnerable staff.

"I can legitimately say the code of conduct for MPs should include now a specific provision as the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner recommended some time ago on harassment and bullying.

"And if it did the complaints about harsssment and bullying would be justiciable and adjudicated by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner  which would be an improvement on the present (situation)."

Mr Elphicke said he found out about the allegations when he received a call from a journalist at 9pm on Friday telling him he would have the whip withdrawn in time for the 10 o'clock news.

He said: "Minutes later, I received a call from the Chief Whip telling me that serious allegations had been made against me earlier that week and that these had been passed to the police."

Mr Elphicke added: "I asked what the allegations were and he would not tell me. He only said that he and the Prime Minister had decided the whip should be suspended from me.

"As we spoke, the news spread across the national media. And that is all I can tell you. Since then I have had no further information. And here we are.

"So extraordinary as it may seem I am no wiser now than I was on Friday evening when the Chief Whip called me."

Charlie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover and Deal Credit:  Jordan Mansfield/Getty

Mr Elphicke said that the way that the party had managed the allegations was a "mess". 

He said: "I have every sympathy with people who have been harassed or victimised and feel they have nowhere to turn. That is a denial of justice.

"It is also a denial of justice when people who have had allegations made against them, lose their job or their party whip without knowing what those allegations are.

"I believe this is fundamentally wrong. Wrong because it's an injustice to those who stand accused. But also wrong because it undermines our values as a country."

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Mr Elphicke added: "We believe in the rule of law - that everyone, be they so very high or so very low, should be equal before the law. We believe in the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise. We believe in natural justice.

"So I ask you: was it in line with our values as a country that the media was told of allegations made against me last week before I was?

"Was it in line with our values that the presumption of innocence was undermined by the whip being suspended? Was it in line with our values to cause prejudice and harm the chances of my getting a fair hearing?"

Keith Single, chairman of the Dover and Deal Conservative Association, said: "Charlie Elphicke is the best MP Dover and Deal has ever had.

"As far as we are concerned, he is innocent until proven otherwise."

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