David Cameron is under pressure to remove the Tory whip from an MP who attended a Nazi-themed stag night after French prosecutors began an investigation into the event.
They are considering possible charges of inciting racial hatred and being an apologist for Nazism – offences that can be punished with six-month jail term.
Aidan Burley, the MP for Cannock Chase, was sacked last week as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) after being photographed at the dinner alongside a man wearing a replica SS officer's uniform. Other guests were filmed performing Nazi salutes and drinking toasts to the Third Reich at a restaurant in the Alpine ski resort of Val Thorens.
Mr Burley has apologised for his "crass and insensitive" decision to join the stag party but stressed he had not taken part in toasts or "offensive" chants. He has not responded to allegations that he hired the Nazi uniform, which would leave him open to prosecution in France.
His attempts to ride out the row were undermined yesterday by the disclosure that the public prosecutor in Grenoble had launched an inquiry. Magistrates have received a complaint from an anti-racism organisation and lawyers for the restaurant where the stag night began have also said they will contact the prosecutor. The Prime Minister has ordered an investigation into the episode but it is not expected to be completed until next month. The Labour MP Ian Austin said: "David Cameron and the Tories tried to brush this under the carpet but the scandal surrounding Aidan Burley's disgraceful conduct is not going away.
"Surely the Prime Minister must take the whip off Mr Burley while this investigation is taking place."
Mr Burley said yesterday: "I have not been contacted by the French authorities and I have repeatedly apologised for what was clearly inappropriate behaviour which caused offence to others." He told the BBC he did not believe he had broken any French law.
The Tory leadership stood by Mr Burley, despite describing his conduct as "offensive and foolish", when reports of the stag party emerged. But he was fired a week later as the PPS to Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, because of "information received".
The stag party was arranged to celebrate the forthcoming wedding of Mark Fournier, an accountant. One guest, who was sitting beside Mr Burley, was filmed toasting the "ideology and thought process of the Third Reich". Another was heard describing the MP as "the candidate for Berlin East".
Later some of the group – not including the MP – moved on to a British theme pub and chanted: "Mein Fuhrer! Mein Fuhrer!".Reuse content