Tory party investigates report of MP watching porn in Commons

News

Britain’s Conservative party has confirmed it is investigating reports that a male MP watched pornography on his mobile phone while sitting in the House of Commons chamber.

The allegations, first reported in the Mirror and Sun newspapers on Wednesday, were discussed during a meeting of Tory MPs on Tuesday in which female members shared their experiences of sexism within the workplace.

Chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris, who attended the meeting, has referred the matter to the parliamentary Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, a spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday evening.

“Following allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the House of Commons the chief whip has asked that this matter be referred to the ICGS,” a spokesperson for the whips office said. “Upon the conclusion of any ICGS investigation, the chief whip will take appropriate action.”

The ICGS was established in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal that hit parliament in 2017. It investigates complaints relating to current and former members of the parliamentary community such as staffers or MPs.

The revelations come amid rising concern about sexual misconduct in Westminster.

Earlier this week, the Sunday Times reported that three cabinet ministers and two shadow cabinet ministers had been referred to the ICGS for alleged sexual misconduct.

Unnamed Tory MPs in an article by the Mail on Sunday also claimed that deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tried to distract Boris Johnson at prime minister’s questions in the Commons by crossing and uncrossing her legs, comparing her to actress Sharon Stone in the film Basic Instinct.

The report was widely criticised by MPs from all political parties and prompted speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle to call for a meeting with the editor and political editor of the paper. The request was rejected.

At least 40 Tory MPs — including former prime minister Theresa May and the party’s chair Oliver Dowden — attended the meeting in which the allegations about the porn-watching MP emerged, according to the Mirror. During the discussion, female MPs voiced concerns that the culture of sexism within Westminster would deter women from standing for Parliament.

Downing Street said it would be inappropriate to comment on the claims regarding the MPs referred to the ICGS. “On this, 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,” said the prime minister’s spokesperson.

However, the government insisted that the Conservative party has a zero tolerance approach to harassment. “You will have heard the PM address this explicitly in Parliament today and over the past few days,” the spokesperson added. “Saying there is absolutely no place for such behaviour and this cannot be tolerated in any workplace.”

In prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas called on Boris Johnson to confirm whether sexual harassment could be considered grounds for dismissal under the ministerial code.

Johnson said in response: “Of course sexual harassment is intolerable and it is quite right that members should now have a procedure by which they can bring that to the attention of the House authorities and I think that is a good thing, and of course it is grounds for dismissal.”

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