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Decision not to remove whip from ex-minister arrested on rape allegations branded 'shocking' by Jess Phillips

Labour MP Jess Phillips (Credit: PA)

3 min read

An ex-Tory minister arrested on suspicion of rape must have the Conservative Party whip removed, Labour MP Jess Phillips has insisted.

The shadow domestic violence minister called on party chiefs to take action against the MP, in his 50s, who was detained by police on Saturday and later released on bail.

Ms Phillips said she found it "shocking" that the party whip had not yet been removed pending the outcome of the investigation, which is examining claims of sexual assault and coercive control.

"What I would say in this matter is that in any organisation, especially one like Members of Parliament, who every day work with vulnerable people, young activists, members of staff... In any other organisation were this investigation to be going on, this police investigation, somebody would be suspended while the investigation was taking place," she told Times Radio.

"I find it shocking this morning, the news that the Conservative Party have decided not to withdraw the whip in this case."

The complainant, a former parliamentary staff member in her 20s, reported four incidents which are alleged to have taken place between July 2019 and January 2020 in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney.

A Conservative Party spokesperson said the matter was being treated "extremely seriously".

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Sunday that he did not know the name of the MP under investigation.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: "I've read the accusations in the newspapers this morning but I don't know more than you do in that respect.

"These are very serious allegations and they should be investigated. They're in the hands of the police, so I don't think I can comment any more than that."

On whether the MP in question should have the whip removed during an investigation, he replied: "I think it's difficult to comment if I don't know the allegations - I don't know the identity of the individual.

"I know this is being handled by the Chief Whip, who is in contact with the Member of Parliament in question and I'm sure they'll take all the steps that are required as further information comes to light.”

Asked if he personally wanted to see the Tory whip removed, he said: "We need to take allegations of this nature very seriously and I'm confident that the party is and will do."

Mr Jenrick was also asked if Parliament was a "safe space" for young women to work, answering: "It needs to be. There has clearly been some very difficult allegations and cases in recent years.

"We need to make sure, like any other workplace, it is one that's fit for everybody where everybody feels safe and comfortable working, and when allegations are raised they are treated with the seriousness they deserve."

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