Deputy prime minister Dominic Raab has said there will not be a “specific investigation” into former minister Nusrat Ghani’s allegations of Islamophobia until a formal complaint is made has been made.
It comes after the Tory MP alleged that she was informed by a government whip her Muslim faith was “making colleagues feel uncomfortable” when she lost her job as a transport minister in 2020.
In an explosive interview, and amid wider scrutiny over the actions of whips, Ms Ghani said she had not pursued the matter at the time after being warned she would be “ostracised by colleagues” and her “career and reputation would be destroyed”.
Ms Ghani’s remarks brought immediate condemnation from her colleagues on the backbenches and also led to calls for an investigation, including from cabinet minister Nadhim Zahawi, who said there was “no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism” in the party.
Mr Raab, the deputy prime minister and justice secretary, described the allegations — denied by the chief whip, Mark Spencer— as “incredibly serious”, but said a formal complaint had to be submitted before an investigation is launched.
“I’ve looked at that allegation and seen what she’s said, it is incredibly serious,” he told Sky News on Sunday. “Let me just be clear at the outset we have absolutely zero tolerance for any discrimination or Islamophobia in the Conservative Party”.
“On the specific allegations, it’s very unusual that the chief whip has come out and said the conversation concerned was with him, Mark Spencer, and he has categorically denied in the what can only be described as the most forthright and robust terms.”
He added: “”If there are any claims like this they should result in a formal complaint which allows a formal investigation to take place.
“As the chief whip has pointed out Nus [Ghani] hasn’t made a formal complaint. She was asked to do so. In the absence of doing so there will be no specific investigation into this.”
Mr Raab also told the BBC: “I believe a claim like this should [be investigated], but it can only happen if the person making the complaint makes it formally — that’s when the procedures kick in.”
After Ms Ghani’s interview in The Sunday Times, Mr Spencer, the chief whip, took the unusual step of outing himself as the individual who spoke to the Conservative MP – although he strongly denied using the words claimed.
“To ensure other whips are not drawn into this matter, I am identifying myself as the person Nusrat Ghani MP has made claims about this evening,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
“These accusations are completely false and I consider them to be defamatory. I have never used those words attributed to me.”
He added: “It is disappointing that when this issue was raised before Ms Ghani declined to refer the matter to the Conservative Party for a formal investigation.
“I provided evidence to the Singh Investigation into Islamophobia which concluded that there was no credible basis for the claims.”
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