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Tue, 29 September 2020

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Chief Whip says he takes Tory MP rape allegations ‘very seriously’ amid criticism over not suspending him

Chief Whip says he takes Tory MP rape allegations ‘very seriously’ amid criticism over not suspending him

Government Chief whip Mark Spencer has insisted he does take the rape allegations against a Tory MP 'very seriously' (PA)

2 min read

Government Chief Whip Mark Spencer has insisted he does take the rape allegations against a Tory MP “very seriously” after criticism for not suspending him.

There have been calls to withdraw the Conservative whip from the former minister after he was arrested and bailed in connection with several serious offences at the weekend.

Labour’s shadow domestic violence minister Jess Phillips said she found it “shocking” the MP - who has not been named - would not be suspended during the investigation.

But Mr Spencer defended his actions, saying on Monday: "They are very serious allegations, we do take those allegations very seriously.  

“I think it's down to the police to do that thorough investigation, not for the whips' office to investigate this alleged crime.”

Asked if the MP would lose the whip after police have finished their inquiries the Chief Whip said: "Once they've come to that conclusion we can assess where we're at and the position that the MP finds themself in.”

Mr Spencer has come under fire for the way he has handled the complaints by a woman in her 20s, with suggestion he was made aware of the sexual allegations but did not pursue the matter - something he strongly denies.

According to The Telegraph, the complainant in the case, a woman in her 20s who worked as a parliamentary aide, first raised the matter with the Conservative chief whip four months ago.

The alleged victim meanwhile told The Times she was “devastated” that the MP had not been suspended.

But business minister Nadhim Zahawi on Monday defended the Conservative Party’s handling of the situation.

He told Sky News he wanted to avoid entering “the realms of speculation about when Mr Spencer knew what, adding:  “I absolutely believe that sometimes when the details are then released then people will begin to understand why you know the chief whip, or Conservative Party has behaved and acted in a particular way. 

“I think it's only right that we allow the police to finish that investigation.“

Downing Street meanwhile refused to answer any questions about the matter during a briefing with reporters, saying it was “not appropriate to comment” due to the ongoing police investigation.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson would not confirm when Boris Johnson first became aware of the allegations against the MP.

And they would not respond to claims from the alleged victim that by not suspending the senior Tory it “shows they never cared”.

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