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Johnson rejects new sanctions for MP facing suspension for sexual misconduct

27 May 2021 3 minutes Read
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Annika Haas (CC BY 2.0). Rob Roberts. Picture by David Woolfall (CC BY 3.0).

Boris Johnson has rejected imposing new sanctions on an MP who is facing suspension for sexual misconduct.

The UK Prime Minister claimed that Rob Roberts, who could be suspended from Parliament for six weeks, has “already had condign punishment” because he has had the Conservative Whip temporarily removed.

He was responding to Labour MP Gerald Jones after he called for 41-year-old Roberts, who represents Delyn, to resign, as well as for the UK Government to introduce emergency legislation to close a loophole that is preventing a by-election in the seat.

Johnson defended his actions and insisted that he took the issue “very seriously”.

The UK Government has said it could shut the loophole and Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is expected to make a statement on the matter. However, this could be too late to trigger a by-election in Delyn.

Roberts was found to have breached Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy by the Independent Expert Panel, which recommended a six week suspension.

The panel upheld complaints about his “repeated and unwanted” sexual advances.

Roberts repeatedly propositioned a male aide, arranging one-on-one dinners with him and telling him that he should be “less alluring”. He also invited a 21-year-old female intern to “fool around”.

‘Recall’ 

Labour MP Gerald Jones said: “When any Member of this House is suspended for 10 days or more because of a Standards Committee report, constituents can then recall that Member.

“When the Independent Expert Panel suspends a Member, that cannot happen. The Prime Minister was talking a moment ago about closing loopholes in legislation.

“Will he introduce emergency legislation to close this particular loophole? Does he agree that it would be completely dishonourable for any Member to exploit that loophole, and that they should instead do the decent thing and resign?”

Boris Johnson replied: “I take that point very seriously. I will study the implications of what the hon. Gentleman says.

“If he is referring to a Conservative Member who has recently had the Whip taken away, he can take it that that Member has already had condign punishment.”

Suspensions of more than ten days usually trigger a recall petition and potentially a by-election if it is signed by enough voters in the constituency.

However, the panel that looked at the Roberts case was set up only last year, and the legislation covering recall rules was not amended to cover it.

A source close to Jacob Rees-Mogg, said told The Times he would work to fix the anomaly: “A case of this severity highlights the need to look again at whether the process is striking the right balance between protecting the confidentiality of complainants and ensuring consistency with other types of conduct cases.”

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