Senior Tory: Westminster sex abuse allegations are as bad as the expenses scandal
Accusations of sexual assault and harassment in Westminster are as bad as the expenses scandal, a minister has claimed.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live this morning, Margot James said Parliament “needs to change,” after a series of allegations emerged against MPs, including serving Cabinet ministers.
The latest accusation, reported last night, suggested that First Secretary of State Damian Green had “fleetingly” touched the knee of a Conservative activist in 2015 and sent her “suggestive” text messages.
Mr Green insisted the allegations were “completely untrue” but the Cabinet Office will probe whether he broke the ministerial code.
Business minister Ms James said she did not believe her Conservative colleague should have to stand down as Theresa May's de facto deputy while the probe is carried out.
“I read the article in The Times today, and I certainly don’t think that it warrants anyone’s resignation, temporary or otherwise, in my opinion,” she said.
However, when asked if the growing list of allegations against MPs were on a par with the expenses scandal, the former whip said: “I think that some of the behaviour that is reported, that I have no reason to disbelieve, is as bad.
“But I think that it is far less widespread, and I also think it is different really. Because, as I say, MPs are a microcosm of society, and I’m afraid there are men – and to a far lesser extent women – who behave in ways that most people would regard as unacceptable in this field of human life in parliament as there are outside.”
Tory MP Anna Soubry called on Mr Green to step aside during the investigation process, telling Sky News: “I would want it cleared up and personally I would say that an investigation by some mechanism, you stand out, you remove yourself from this position until the conclusion of that investigation.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon was yesterday forced to apologise after it emerged that he had touched the knee of a journalist at a Tory party function some years ago.
Labour party activist Bex Bailey claimed she had been raped at a party event in 2011 but an official told her to keep quiet about it as it could harm her career.
Another female staffer at Westminster has told how she was let down by parliamentary authorities after being sexually assaulted by an MP on a foreign trip.
Ms James said: “Clearly all of these allegations that are being made at the moment about sexual harrassment in parliament are very difficult for both parties – for all parties – but I think it is high time that some of this did come to public attention. Because I think it is a way of changing the culture in parliament. And it does need to change, there is no doubt about that.”