A Conservative MP arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences spanning seven years has been released on bail, the Metropolitan Police revealed today as their investigation continued.
Scotland Yard said the unnamed man in his 50s had also been detained on suspicion of indecent assault, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office – with all the alleged offences said to have occurred in London.
Tory chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris urged the MP to stay away from Parliament but has not suspended the whip, meaning the suspect remains a member of the parliamentary party.
It comes as the Tories faced mounting pressure to name the MP and prevent a guessing game – although Foreign Secretary Liz Truss today insisted it was a ‘matter for the police about whether that individual is named’.
Police said in an update at about 7.40am today that the MP had been ‘bailed pending further enquiries to a date in mid-June’ and that an investigation is ongoing, led by officers from the Central Specialist Crime unit.
Around 50 MPs are said to have been referred to Parliament’s authorities over sex assault claims. And over the last year, about 15 MPs are suspected to have been investigated by Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) watchdog that examines allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.
The Conservative Party’s decision to not name the MP will spark fears that other men might wrongly be suspected, with one senior backbencher telling The Telegraph that the party should issue a denial if another politician was falsely identified as the suspect.
Before Tory MP Neil Parish – who quit his Tiverton and Honiton seat after he admitted watching pornography in the Commons – was revealed as the ‘porn MP’ last month, some other men were named as potential perpetrators.
Farmer Mr Parish first said he accidentally viewed one X-rated video when browsing for tractors, before later doing so deliberately in the Commons chamber. And a colleague said last night: ‘What happened with Neil is that names flew around… There should be a categorical denial of the other names.’
An MP arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault offences spanning seven years has been released on bail (file image)
The Metropolitan Police had earlier said that officers received a report in January 2020 relating to alleged sexual offences committed in London between 2002 and 2009.
It was understood the Conservatives will not make a decision on whether the suspect has the whip suspended until after the police investigation has concluded.
Shortly before the police issued an update this morning on the MP being bailed, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she was ‘very, very concerned’ that the politician had been arrested.
Asked how she felt when she heard the news, she told Sky News: ‘I’m very, very concerned about the reports that I’ve heard. Clearly this is a matter for the police.
‘The police are currently working on the case but it is worrying that we are seeing these appalling … accusations, again, about a parliamentarian.’
Asked if the MP should have been suspended or had the whip withdrawn, she said: ‘I think it’s a matter for the police about whether that individual is named.
‘I don’t know who it is. I know that the police are looking at it and investigating it and I think we need to wait for the police to conduct those investigations.’
Conservative sources declined to identify the individual, citing the need to protect the identity of any complainant.
A statement from the Tory whips’ office said: ‘The chief whip has asked that the MP concerned does not attend the Parliamentary estate while an investigation is ongoing. Until the conclusion of the investigation we will not be commenting further.’
The Prospect union, which represents hundreds of staff working in the Houses of Parliament, said firmer action was needed.
Deputy general secretary Garry Graham said: ‘What will it take for Parliament to finally take its responsibility to its staff and visitors seriously and suspend access to the estate for parliamentarians under investigation for sexual offences?
‘Voluntary agreements to stay away do not work, as demonstrated by Imran Ahmad Khan’s attendance at Westminster whilst investigations were ongoing, despite agreeing to stay away.
‘Parliament has the same responsibilities towards its staff as any other workplace and it must live up to them.’
A Scotland Yard spokesman said today: ‘In January 2020, the Met received a report relating to alleged sexual offences having been committed between 2002 and 2009.
‘The offences are alleged to have occurred in London. An investigation is ongoing, led by officers from Central Specialist Crime .
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News she is ‘very, very concerned’ that a Tory MP had been arrested on suspicion of rape
‘A man, aged in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.
Tory chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris (pictured) urged the MP to stay away from Parliament but has not suspended the whip
‘He was taken into custody and has since been bailed pending further enquiries to a date in mid-June.’
The arrest comes amid renewed scrutiny of sleaze in Westminster following a string of cases.
Former Conservative MP Imran Ahmad Khan quit the Commons earlier this month after being convicted of sexually assaulting a boy.
David Warburton had the Conservative whip withdrawn after allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use emerged.
Neil Parish stood down as the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton earlier this month after admitting watching pornography in the Commons.
The latest arrest also follows a Tory MP being arrested on suspicion of rape in 2020. He was never identified and police took no further action after an investigation.
The Tory MP’s arrest threatened to overshadow the Government’s ‘crime week’ with Boris Johnson telling yesterday’s Cabinet meeting: ‘Crime, crime, crime is what we want to focus on.’
The Prime Minister said sexual and domestic violence victims needed to know the Government was on their side, adding: ‘We want to see more rapists brought to justice.’
Police said officers received a report in January 2020 relating to alleged sexual offences committed in London (file image)
In the last crime week last December, Mr Johnson faced allegations of Covid rule-breaking by his Downing Street team.
Allegra Stratton, his adviser, quit after a video emerged of her laughing about an ‘illegal’ party in No 10 during lockdown.
Mr Johnson also faced questions over whether he misled a probe into donations for refurbishments to his Downing Street flat after the Electoral Commission fined the Tories £17,800.
Last night there was no answer at the arrested MP’s home. A person who answered the phone at his constituency office said: ‘I’m sorry we have got no information at all’, before putting the phone down.
Conservative sources declined to identify the MP. A Speaker’s Office spokesman declined to comment.