politics

Chris Pincher loses party whip as shadow minister claims ‘Parliament not safe to work’



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arliament is “not a safe place” to work a shadow cabinet minister has claimed following the suspension of Chris Pincher from the parliamentary Tory party.

Following claims he drunkenly groped two men, Mr Pincher resigned from his position as deputy whip before then having the whip removed – he will now sit as an independent MP.

Although an investigation will now be carried out, shadow armed forces minister Luke Pollard has claimed “wholesale changes” are needed across Parliament.

Speakng to Sky News, he said: “We need a wholesale change in this because, I’m afraid, Parliament is not a safe place to work as it should be for so many of the young people in particular who work there.

“We need to be setting higher standards than we have at the moment but I’m afraid the culture is set from the top and the prime minister has been so very clear that standards in public life – decency, integrity, honesty – don’t apply.”

Boris Johnson bowed to pressure after a complaint about the MP was made to Parliament’s watchdog that examines allegations of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct.

It was reported the decision was taken after the Prime Minister spoke to a Tory MP who was with one of the men who was allegedly groped by Mr Pincher.

A Downing Street told the PA news agency: “The account given was sufficiently disturbing to make the PM feel more troubled by all this.”

Boris Johnson was facing questions about Chris Pincher (John Sibley/PA)

/ PA Wire

The Prime Minister was said to have been waiting for a formal investigation to begin before suspending the whip.

Mr Pincher dramatically quit as Tory deputy chief whip after the incident which reportedly involved him assaulting two fellow guests at the Carlton Club – a Tory Party private members’ club in Piccadilly – on Wednesday evening

The Prime Minister had been resisting calls to go further and remove the whip, meaning the Tamworth MP would sit as an independent in the Commons, but action was taken after a formal complaint was made to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS).

It came after Tory MPs Karen Bradley and Caroline Nokes, the only two Conservative female chairs of select committees, wrote to the chief whip suggesting Mr Pincher should have the Tory whip removed.

In their letter to Chris Heaton-Harris, they call for a “zero tolerance policy” on sexual misconduct following an “inconsistent and unclear approach” by the Tory party to such incidents.

A spokeswoman for Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said: “Having heard that a formal complaint has been made to the ICGS, the PM has agreed with the chief whip that the whip should be suspended from Chris Pincher while the investigation is ongoing.

“We will not pre-judge that investigation. We urge colleagues and the media to respect that process.”

Former housing minister Kelly Tolhurst has been appointed as the new Tory deputy chief whip following the resignation of Chris Pincher, Downing Street said.

Scotland Yard said it had not received any reports of an incident at the club.

The Commons said the ICGS “operates on the basis of confidentiality for the benefit of all parties”, adding: “Therefore, we cannot provide any information on any complaint, including whether or not a complaint has been received.”

Mr Pincher is the latest Conservative MP to bring unwanted attention to the party because of his behaviour.

Mr Pincher’s resignation comes amid renewed scrutiny of sleaze in Westminster following a string of cases including former Tory MP for Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan, being jailed for 18 months in May for groping a 15-year-old boy in 2008.

Another MP, Neil Parish, quit his seat in Tiverton and Honiton in May after being caught watching pornography in the House of Commons.

He said he accidentally viewed an x-rated video when browsing for tractors, before later doing so deliberately in the Commons chamber.

The party whip is currently withdrawn from David Warburton, who represents Somerton and Frome.

The Sunday Times reported that two women had made formal complaints to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) about Mr Warburton’s behaviour and a third woman had also made allegations about his conduct.

Mr Warburton is said to deny any wrongdoing.



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