Tory MP ‘caught watching porn in House of Commons’ as chief whip investigates

Colleague says behaviour ‘unacceptable in any workplace’

Liam James,Adam Forrest
Wednesday 27 April 2022 12:14 BST
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Angela Rayner jokes about 'Basic Instinct' moment in podcast

A Conservative MP who watched allegedly pornography on his phone in the House of Commons has been reported to a parliamentary watchdog.

A female minister who said she was sitting next to the unnamed colleague at the time told colleagues about the incident at a meeting of Tory MPs in Westminster on Tuesday night.

The office of chief Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris vowed that “action will be taken” over the claim, which comes as misogyny in politics is under heightened scrutiny.

Mr Heaton-Harris’s spokesperson said the claim would now be referred to parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), the watchdog set up in the wake of the Me Too movement.

“Upon the conclusion of any ICGS investigation the chief whip will take appropriate action,” said the spokesperson for the chief whip.

Home Office minister Rachel Maclean said the Tory MP who allegedly watched porn in the chamber should be expelled from the party, if the claims are correct.

She told Sky News: “It’s just gruesome. None of us could believe our ears when we heard of this allegation … It is completely and utterly shocking and unacceptable. There is no place for this in our party.”

Tuesday evening’s meeting of 40 to 50 members of the 2022 group of Tory MPs, attended by Mr Heaton-Harris, leader of the Commons Mark Spencer and party chair Oliver Dowden, is understood to have heard around a dozen women complain of sexist behaviour by colleagues.

Two female MPs, including a minister, reportedly said they witnessed their male colleague looking at adult images in the Commons.

Reports suggested that the MP alleged to have watch porn in the chamber was not named at the meeting, though his identity may have been passed to the chief whip later.

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the alleged behaviour was “totally unacceptable”, insisting that “allegations like this are taken incredibly seriously”. They added: “While the chief is looking into it there nothing further we can say.”

Asked whether watching pornography at work was a sackable offence, the spokesperson said: “I am not aware of the disciplinary action. Obviously, it is wholly unacceptable behaviour and it is being looked into.”

The meeting was held after The Sunday Times reported that 56 MPs, including three cabinet minsters, were under investigation over claims of sexual misconduct referred to the ICGS.

No 10 would not be drawn on the alleged investigations into cabinet ministers, and would not say whether the Tory party was looking into the claims.

“We obviously take all such allegations extremely seriously but there is an independent process in place and it is right not to speak on its behalf,” the PM’s press secretary said.

When asked about the incident earlier at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said ministers would face dismissal if misconduct claims against them were upheld by the investigations.

One Tory MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith, told the BBC’s Politics Live that the reported behaviour was “unacceptable in any workplace”.

Saying he would “call it out” if he saw it happening, Mr Clarke-Smith added: “I think that’s incredibly unprofessional. I would hope that when they’re in the chamber they’re concentrating on what they’re doing and not their mobile phones.”

He added: “I can’t even get a wifi signal in the chamber.”

The allegations were reported on the same day that an article in The Mail on Sunday quoted an anonymous Tory MP making sexist claims against Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner.

Ms Rayner hit out at the “sexist slurs” aimed at her as the editor of The Mail On Sunday refused a meeting with the Commons Speaker to discuss the article.

Labour leader Starmer stood by deputy Rayner at PMQs (UK Parliament)

On Wednesday,The Daily Mail published comments made by Ms Rayner on Matt Forde’s light-hearted political podcastThe Political Party in January, in which she discussed comparisons between her attire in the Commons and a famous scene in movie Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone crosses and uncrosses her legs. The same scene was cited in Sunday’s article.

After the comments were reported, Ms Rayner said on Wednesday: “I said to [Mr Forde] in January that the sexist film parody about me was misogynistic and it still is now.

“As women we sometimes try to brush aside the sexism we face, but that doesn’t make it ok.”

She added: “the Mail implies today that I somehow enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs. I don’t. They are mortifying and deeply hurtful.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer raised the article at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, calling on Mr Johnson to agree there was “no place” for misogyny in modern Britain.

Sir Keir said: “I know the prime minister will have whipped his backbenchers to scream and shout and that is fine. But I hope he has also sent a clear message that there is no place for sexism and misogyny or looking down on people because of where they come from in his party, in this house, or in modern Britain.”

Mr Johnson replied that he had “exchanged messages” with Ms Rayner at the weekend after the Mail on Sunday article was published.

He added: “I repeat what I said to her, there can be absolutely no place for such behaviour or such expression in this house and we should treat each other frankly, with the respect that each other deserves.”

Asked by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas about the reports of sexual misconduct investigations into MPs, including three cabinet ministers, Mr Johnson said a guilty verdict would be “grounds for dismissal” for ministers.

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