MPs under investigation could be barred from Parliament as Tory accused of rape

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said discussions over new powers are under way.

Sam Blewett
Thursday 19 May 2022 10:45
The Union Flag flies above the Victoria Tower and the Palace of Westminster (Jonathan Brady/PA)
The Union Flag flies above the Victoria Tower and the Palace of Westminster (Jonathan Brady/PA)

MPs accused of serious criminal offences could be banned from Parliament under new powers being considered, as the Tories faced pressure to identify and suspend the Conservative MP accused of rape.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said discussions are ongoing to decide whether parliamentarians could be barred from the estate while under police investigation.

The Conservatives have told the unnamed MP to stay away from Parliament while on bail for allegations including sexual assault, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.

But the party was resisting calls to suspend and identify the Tory, who has only been publicly identified as a man in his 50s.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse (PA)

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said they have to be “sensitive” about anonymity for suspects under investigation, saying it can put “enormous strain on individuals” who ultimately do not face prosecution.

Sir Lindsay said that the MP under investigation should stay away from Westminster in the “best interest of both the member” and parliamentary staff.

But he told Times Radio: “Unless the rules change in the House, a member has the right to come in.”

Asked if the Commons authorities could get the powers to block MPs’ passes under the circumstances, Sir Lindsay said: “What I would say is conversations are going on at the moment.”

While it was unclear who would be granted the power to bar MPs, any proposals would need to be voted on by the House and it was understood to be unlikely the Speaker would be able to act single-handedly.

Mr Malthouse told Times Radio: “We have to take care here.

“Far be it for me to give advice to the Speaker but we have to take care when overriding the democratic decisions of the British public.

“If anybody is accused of a crime they’re innocent until proven guilty so we just need to be slightly sensitive about that but I’d be interested in seeing what the Speaker concludes.”

The Conservatives have not suspended the whip from the MP, meaning he remains a member of the parliamentary party.

But the Prime Minister’s Press Secretary has said he would lose the whip if he was ever charged with an offence.

An arrest is obviously an investigative tool and anybody who is arrested is still innocent until proven guilty and there are particular crimes which are very sensitive and attract public approbation even if they are then proven innocent

Policing minister Kit Malthouse

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman said “our view is that, given the nature of the allegations, then the whip should be suspended and obviously at that point it would become public”.

There are legal issues with identifying the suspect, but keeping him anonymous has cast suspicion over other MPs who are not facing any allegations.

On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Police bailed the suspect pending further inquiries until mid-June.

Mr Malthouse told Times Radio: “I think the naming of any person who has been accused of a particular crime has to be done proportionally and sensibly.

“We have to be sensitive about the anonymity with particular crime types of crime types of the accused until the police are in the position to take further steps.

“An arrest is obviously an investigative tool and anybody who is arrested is still innocent until proven guilty and there are particular crimes which are very sensitive and attract public approbation even if they are then proven innocent.

“We have in the past had MPs who have been accused of not dissimilar crimes who have been found innocent and where no further action has applied, and that puts enormous strain on individuals as well as indeed it does on victims who are making accusations in those circumstances.”

The latest arrest also follows a Conservative MP being arrested on suspicion of rape in 2020. He was never identified and police took no further action after an investigation.

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