Who is Neil Parish? Tory MP suspended after being ‘caught watching porn in Commons’

Sixty-five-year-old Remainer is chair of influential committee

Adam Forrest
Friday 29 April 2022 20:00
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Related video: MP denied parliament had ‘culture problem’ despite porn-watching allegation

Neil Parish MP finds himself at the centre of a major Westminster scandal, suspended by the Conservatives while an investigation takes place into claims he watched pornography on his mobile phone in parliament.

Following days of speculation about the identity of the man accused of viewing porn, it was announced on Friday that the Tory whip had been removed from Mr Parish, and that he had reported himself to the parliament’s sleaze watchdog.

So who Mr Parish? The 65-year-old is the influential chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee which scrutinises vital issues such as Brexit trade deals and food supply.

First elected in 2010, he represents the Devon constituency of Tiverton and Honiton, and won subsequent general elections in 2015, 2017 and 2019 by comfortable margins. He holds a huge majority of over 24,000.

Mr Parish, who was formerly a Tory MEP for the southwest region, supported the Remain campaign during the Brexit referendum of 2016.

In November, the backbencher warned the government that the consequences of Brexit was “destroying” British agriculture, as he condemned ministers for failing to act on labour shortages.

Mr Parish has expressed controversial views on same-sex marriage in the past. He opposed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act passed under David Cameron’s coalition government in 2013, saying “this should be for the Church and Christians to decide”.

A champion of animal welfare causes, Mr Parish’s Labrador won the Westminster Dog of the Year competition back in 2011.

The Devon MP will now face intense scrutiny over allegations that he watched porn online, on his mobile phone, while sitting next to a female colleague in the Commons chamber.

Some pointed out that Mr Parish recently expressed his “disappointment” that his Tiverton and Honiton constituency is one of the worst in England for superfast broadband connections.

Hansard shows that Mr Parish has raised or debated the issue of broadband connection dozens of times in parliament.

It has emerged that he was asked about claims of porn-watching earlier this week during an appearance on GB News. Mr Parish said he hoped there would be a “thorough investigation”.

Asked if there was a cultural problem with sexism and misogyny in parliament, the MP said: “It’s a very intense area, and you are going to get people who step over the line.”

The Conservative Party initially suggested that claims made against Mr Parish could be referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), the watchdog set up to examine bullying and sexual harassment allegations.

But Mr Parish referred himself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, on Friday.

It is unclear whether he could face two separate investigations. But it is thought the commissioner’s investigation could be into whether Mr Parish caused “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the Commons.

He is also now facing a clamour of opposition calls to step down as MP. Senior Labour MP Harriet Harman said he should “resign immediately” if the allegations are true.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper MP added: “If Boris Johnson had any shred of decency left, he would tell Neil Parish to resign immediately.”

Defence secretary Ben Wallace pointed out this week that only constituents can get rid of a sitting MP. But he raised the prospect of a recall petition, if the MP in question was proved to have watched porn in the Commons.

MPs can face a recall petition if they are suspended by the parliamentary authorities. If 10 per cent of eligible registered voters in a constituency signed the petition, a by-election is required.

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