WATCH: Labour MPs hit out after suspended Tories regain whip to vote in Theresa May ballot
Ministers have come under fresh fire after two suspended Conservative MPs had the whip restored so they could take part in last night's crucial vote on Theresa May’s leadership.
Labour MPs Jess Phillips and Louise Haigh took aim at the decision to reinstate Tories Andrew Griffiths and Charlie Elphicke ahead of the crucial ballot on whether to oust the Prime Minister.
Both Conservatives had been suspended over allegations of misconduct, but had the party whip restored just hours before yesterday’s confidence vote.
Mr Griffiths lost the whip after admitting to sending thousands of sexually explicit text messages to female constituents.
A Conservative investigation found he had breached the party's code of conduct, but that no further action should be taken because of mental health problems the Burton MP was experiencing at the time.
Meanwhile, Dover MP Mr Elphicke was interviewed under caution by police earlier this year in connection with “alleged sexual offences” against two female members of staff.
He has denied any wrongdoing and said yesterday he remained “as confident as I always have been of clearing my name”.
But the decision to reinstate the pair drew angry criticism from the Labour benches. Speaking in the Commons, Ms Phillips read out leaked messages that Mr Griffiths had sent to his constituents, before taking aim at Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom over the move.
“’She's so cute, so sweet, I can't wait to beat her. Can she take a beating?’ Not my words, Mr Speaker: the words of the MP for Burton, while barraging two of his female constituents with thousands of text messages,” the Labour MP said.
"Last night the Leader of the House's party gave him and the MP for Dover the whip back without any due process.
"What message does this send about how any process here in this place can ever be trusted?"
She added: "What matters more? Political power or protecting victims of sexual harassment and abuse?"
Ms Haigh, a Labour frontbencher added: "I'm afraid the leader's party yesterday lost any ounce of credibility in leading the investigations into sexual harassment and bullying in this place when they restored the whips to the members for Dover and Burton.
"And I'm afraid it is thoroughly implausible that it just so happened that their investigations concluded yesterday. “How can we be assured that party politics are taken out of investigations into such allegations and out of crucial appointments to committees governing standards and privileges in this house?"
But Ms Leadsom, the leader of the Commons, said the decision to readmit the two MPs had been taken by the Conservative whips’ office, and insisted the Government was "absolutely committed to changing the culture of this place and to seeing that everybody here is treated with dignity and respect".
The clash came as Tory chairman Brandon Lewis defended what he called the “appropriate” decision to reinstate the pair.
He told BBC Radio’s 5 Live: “I think it probably was right to make sure that people who are Conservative MPs have the ability to vote on the position about the leader of the party, someone who's been leader while they're MPs, and is going to be leader going forward obviously now with the vote last night.”
The Conservative boss added: "I understand why the whips made that decision.
“Giving them that vote back and the chance to vote for the leader of the party, I think, was an appropriate thing to do."