MP Neil Parish has Tory whip suspended over porn watching in Commons claims

The select committee chair is suspended while under investigation.

Sam Blewett
Friday 29 April 2022 17:07
Neil Parish has been suspended by the Conservatives (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)
Neil Parish has been suspended by the Conservatives (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament/PA)

MP Neil Parish has been suspended by the Conservatives while under investigation for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons chamber.

The Tiverton and Honiton MP had the Tory whip withdrawn after a conversation with the party’s Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris on Friday.

The confirmation of the man at the centre of the allegations ends days of speculation over his identity since the claims surfaced during a meeting of Tory MPs on Tuesday.

Mr Parish, the 65-year-old farmer who chairs the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, has represented the Devon constituency since 2010.

A spokeswoman for Mr Heaton-Harris said: “Having spoken to the Chief Whip this afternoon, Neil Parish MP is reporting himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

“Mr Parish has been suspended from the Conservative whip pending the outcome of that investigation.”

First the Tories looked to refer the matter to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment.

It is understood that process has now started after at least one witness made a referral.

But a second investigation could be launched after Mr Parish’s commitment to refer himself to standards commissioner Kathryn Stone.

It was unclear what potential breach of the MPs’ code of conduct he would report himself for.

But it is thought one line of inquiry could be whether Mr Parish caused “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the Commons.

Mr Parish was asked about the allegations during an appearance on GB News earlier this week, first on whether the MP in question should have the whip removed.

“I think the whips office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result and I think from that then the decision will have to be made what action will be taken,” he responded.

He then denied there was a large cultural problem in Westminster, despite senior Conservative colleagues having decried it as being “shameful”.

Mr Parish said: “We’ve got some 650 Members of Parliament in what is a very intense area.

“We are going to get people that step over the line. I don’t think there’s necessarily a huge culture here but I think it does have to be dealt with and dealt with seriously and that’s what the whips will do.”

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said she had been “disappointed” that the whip was not removed immediately but was “very relieved” that Mr Parish has now been suspended from the parliamentary Conservative Party.

She told ITV News: “I’ve been calling for the Chief Whip to remove the whip from when we first heard about this incident. It’s appalling, nobody should be watching pornography at work.

“I’m pleased that action has been taken and I hope that the two women who complained are being supported through the system as well.”

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire accused the Government of “rotting from the head down”.

The Labour frontbencher said: “The Conservatives knew for days about the disgusting behaviour of one of their MPs and tried to cover it up.”

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper called for the Prime Minister to order Mr Parish to resign.

“If Boris Johnson had any shred of decency left, he would tell Neil Parish to resign immediately,” she said.

“In any other workplace this would count as gross misconduct and the person responsible would lose their job. Parliament should be no different.

“We don’t need to insult the women MPs who witnessed this with a lengthy investigation. All his bosses need to do is ask for his devices and look at his viewing history, this isn’t rocket science.”

The pornography claims followed reports that 56 MPs, including three Cabinet ministers, are facing allegations of sexual misconduct that have been referred to the ICGS.

They also follow outrage over The Mail On Sunday publishing “sexist” and disputed claims from unnamed Tory MPs that deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tried to distract Boris Johnson with her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The scrutiny of politicians’ behaviour also comes after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined for breaching coronavirus rules during the ongoing partygate investigation.

Attorney General Suella Braverman has described a minority of men in Parliament behaving like “animals” and said the porn-watching MP should be expelled if found guilty.

Mr Johnson has described the alleged adult film watching as “clearly totally unacceptable”.

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