The alleged sex offenses for which a Tory MP has been arrested include one linked to someone under the age of 18, it emerged as Labor asked for the MP to be identified.
The man in his 50s was released on bail after being arrested on Tuesday on rape and sexual assault charges spanning seven years, from 2002 to 2009. He was not suspended by the Conservative Party, but Chris Heaton-Harris, the chief whip, asked him to stay away from parliament.
One of the charges is an allegation of abuse of a position of trust, under a law that prohibits any sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18 by an adult person and in a role of trust or authority over the young.
Police generally do not name people who have been arrested but not yet charged. A series of court cases over privacy means that media organizations also rarely do so.
On Wednesday, Boris Johnson’s press secretary dismissed questions about whether the MP should be proactively kicked out of Westminster or lose the Tory whip, saying it was ‘the whips’ business’.
Johnson only learned of the allegations on Tuesday when his whips would have known about it for longer.
“The Prime Minister was shocked to learn of these allegations,” his press secretary told reporters. When asked when he found out, she replied: ‘As far as I know the Prime Minister was informed yesterday.
Keir Starmer’s spokesman said it ‘does not seem viable to argue’ that the MP should not lose the whip.
Asked whether this would inevitably lead to the MP’s name emerging, the spokesman said: ‘It’s up to the Conservative Party to decide what they do, but we feel that given the nature of the allegations, the whip should be suspended and obviously at that time it would become public.
Jess Phillips, a shadow Home Office minister, told BBC Radio 4’s World At One that the procedures appeared unbalanced. “There is just a gap in the process here which currently, in my view, favors … the individual who is charged, charged or convicted against the balance of safeguarding and safety of the other 6,000 people who work here and indeed their constituents as well,” she said.
“The reality is that the Speaker of the House of Commons can only ask that person not to come here. That’s it.”
In a separate intervention, one of the lay members of the House of Commons standards committee, which deals with complaints about the MP, said the current situation with the MP was “a calamity”.
“It’s fine to ask him to stay away, but what about the many riding places where that’s not applicable?” Rita Dexter, former deputy commissioner of the London Fire Department, said. “What consideration has been applied to these?”
If such a thing had happened in the fire department, “without hesitation I would have approved a work suspension”, she added. “It’s tough on those who aren’t found not guilty, but it’s still the best course of action.”
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said on Tuesday evening: “In January 2020, the Met received a report relating to alleged sex offenses which took place between 2002 and 2009. The offenses allegedly occurred in London. An investigation is underway, led by officers from the Central Specialist Crime.
“A man, in his 50s, has been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of a position of trust and misconduct in public office.”