‘Whip removed’ from Tory MP facing suspension for sexual misconduct
The whip has been removed from a Tory MP who is facing suspension from Parliament for sexual misconduct, it has been reported.
Rob Roberts, who represents the Delyn constituency, told a WhatsApp group chat of 2019 intake Conservative MP the news amid the publication of a report into his conduct, according to the Guido Fawkes website.
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) sound that Roberts breach Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy and has recommended that he be suspended for six weeks. The Labour Party has called on the MP to resign his seat.
Roberts told the WhatsApp group: “I no longer have the Conservative Whip therefore it would seem to be appropriate to leave the group until such a time as it is restored. I wouldn’t want to put anyone else in the position of having to explain why we’re still in a group together, albeit not an official party one.”
Fellow Tory MPs in the group have expressed support for Roberts, with James Sunderland saying he is “one of us”
The Conservative Party has previously refused to remove the whip from the MP, despite an investigation by the party into a separate incident finding that he had sent “unacceptable” texts to a young intern. He sent messages to a 21-year-old intern, inviting her to “fool around”.
A spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has previously said that the conduct was “unacceptable” and that the has been “rebuked”.
The spokesperson added: “He has apologised for his behaviour and was instructed to undertake safeguarding and social media protection training.
“It’s something the party takes incredibly seriously and has dealt with accordingly.”
A suspension from Parliament can only be imposed following a motion in the House of Commons by MPs.
If a suspension is for longer than 10 sitting days it could open a window for a Recall Petition, which could trigger a by-election.
Once a petition is open it is available for signing by constituents for six weeks. For a recall petition to be successful at least 10% of eligible registered voters need to sign it, and of the required number is not reached the petition fails and the MP remains in post.
However, if the 10% threshold is reached the petition officer informs the Speaker of the House of Commons that it has been successful, at which point the seat becomes vacant. A by-election is then triggered and the recalled MP is allowed to stand as a candidate.
Stephen Irwin, Chair of the IEP has said: “The misconduct demonstrated here was significant. It is evident that Mr Roberts MP was in a very powerful position as an employer in relation to the reporter. Our conclusion is that the determination of six weeks suspension from the service of the House was proper and proportionate.”
Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour Party Chair, responding to the publication of the Independent Expert Panel’s report into the conduct of Rob Roberts MP, said:
“The report fully upholds the sexual harassment allegations made against Rob Roberts MP. He should therefore resign his seat with immediate effect.
“That such serious and proven abuse doesn’t automatically result in the recall of a sitting Member of Parliament is both absurd and unjust. The Conservative Government cannot dance around gaps in legislation if it is serious about upholding standards in public life.
“That is why we expect the Government to take immediate action – Labour will support efforts to pass emergency legislation or measures to rectify this situation.”