MP dismisses sex attack claim

Sunday 23 October 2011 02:39

Tory MP Andrew Bridgen tonight dismissed allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman as "demonstrably and provably false".

The backbencher, who was arrested yesterday on suspicion of the offence, said he was "angry" that a "mischievous" complaint had been made against him.

In a statement, he said: "The allegations made against me are wholly false and without foundation. Fortunately, they are also demonstrably and provably false.

"I have been happy to cooperate fully with the police and I am completely confident that, after proper investigation, I will be fully exonerated.

"This has caused real hurt and distress to my friends and family, and must be a concern to my constituents.

"I am naturally angry that I have been targeted in this mischievous and damaging way, and I will be taking advice about this. But I would like to thank my constituents and colleagues for the many messages of support that I have received."

The North West Leicestershire MP is a married father of two, who entered Parliament after last year's general election, and is regarded as being on the right of the party.

Scotland Yard said in a statement yesterday that a 46-year-old man had been arrested "on suspicion of sexual assault against a 29-year-old woman at an address in SW1" and added: "He has been bailed to return on a date in mid-July."

A spokesman indicated that the address in SW1 - the London postcode which includes Westminster - was not the Houses of Parliament.

Unconfirmed press reports suggested that the complaint was made by a female researcher for another Tory MP shortly after she left Mr Bridgen's London flat at about 1am yesterday.

Mr Bridgen has been offered support by Graham Allman, chairman of the North West Leicestershire Conservative Association.

Mr Allman told reporters that the MP was "a good family man", adding: "I have known him a long time, he is a good guy, an all-round good guy, good for the constituency - a very popular man."

A Conservative spokesman said: "At the moment, this is a matter for the police, who are investigating, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until the facts are clear."

Mr Bridgen and wife Jacqueline were married in 2000 and have two sons.

After training as an officer in the Royal Marines, he worked for his family's gardening business and set up vegetable firm AB Produce with his brother in 1988.

In the Commons, he is a member of the Regulatory Reform Select Committee.

Since winning the former Labour seat of North West Leicestershire with a majority of 7,511 in the May 2010 election, Mr Bridgen has attracted attention in the Commons as a campaigner against the Alternative Vote in the referendum on electoral reform.

This week he defended Health Secretary Andrew Lansley's plans for radical NHS reform, warning that any watering down of his proposals would amount to "caving in to Stalinist protectionist elements". He was also critical of leader David Cameron's decision to remove a group of so-called "Tatler Tories" from the party's A-list of hopeful candidates.

Mr Bridgen also spoke out against the use of taxpayers' money to help fund a film starring Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher, which is thought likely to be critical of the former prime minister.