UK MP vows to continue duties amid pornography allegations

Neil Parish denies cultural problem in Westminster after being publicly accused of misconduct

Conservative MP Neil Parish said said he would be 'co-operating fully' after an investigation was launched into the scandal. AFP / Richard Townshend / UK Parliament
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A conservative politician who was accused of watching pornography in the Houses of Parliament has vowed to continue his duties as he denied there was a cultural problem in Westminster.

Neil Parish, who represents Tiverton and Honiton, said he would be “co-operating fully” after an investigation was launched into the scandal.

The confirmation that Mr Parish ends days of speculation since the claims surfaced during a meeting of Tory MPs on Tuesday.

Mr Parish, the 65-year-old farmer who heads the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said he had referred himself to the Commons standards commissioner over the allegations.

Before being identified as the MP at the centre of the storm, Mr Parish was asked about the allegations during an appearance on GB News earlier this week.

He was non-committal on whether the suspect should have the whip removed and denied there was a large cultural problem in Westminster, despite senior Conservative colleagues having decried it as being “shameful”.

“We’ve got some 650 members of Parliament in what is a very intense area,” Mr Parish said.

“We are going to get people that step over the line. I don’t think there’s necessarily a huge culture here but I think it does have to be dealt with and dealt with seriously and that’s what the whips will do.”

Conservative chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris suspended Mr Parish, who has represented the Devon constituency since 2010, after they talked on Friday afternoon.

First the Tories looked to refer the matter to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment.

It is understood that process has now started after at least one witness made a referral.

But a second investigation could be launched after Mr Parish’s commitment to refer himself to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.

Writing on his website, Mr Parish said: “Following recent allegations regarding an MP’s use of their mobile phone in Parliament, I have referred myself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards in the House of Commons.

“I will be co-operating fully with any investigation and whilst it is ongoing, I will continue to perform my duties as MP for Tiverton and Honiton.”

Labour’s Harriet Harman, who is the longest-standing woman MP, called on Mr Parish to stand down amid the “new low for the House of Commons”.

“If this is what he has done, he should stand down from Parliament right away. It is not right for him to go through the investigation processes if that is what he has done.

“Clearly he is not fit to be in Parliament. He should accept that and not drag the processes out.”

It was unknown what potential breach of the MPs’ code of conduct he would report himself for.

But it is thought one line of inquiry could be whether Mr Parish caused “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the Commons.

Tory MP Caroline Nokes, chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said she had been “disappointed” that the whip was not removed immediately but was “very relieved” that Mr Parish has now been suspended from the parliamentary Conservative Party.

She told ITV News: “I’ve been calling for the chief whip to remove the whip from when we first heard about this incident. It’s appalling — nobody should be watching pornography at work.

“I’m pleased that action has been taken and I hope that the two women who complained are being supported through the system as well.”

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire accused the government of “rotting from the head down”.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order Mr Parish to resign.

The pornography claims followed reports that 56 MPs, including three Cabinet ministers, are facing allegations of sexual misconduct that have been referred to the ICGS.

They also follow outrage over The Mail On Sunday publishing “sexist” and disputed claims from unnamed Tory MPs that deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tried to distract Mr Johnson with her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The scrutiny of politicians’ behaviour also comes after Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak were fined for breaching coronavirus rules during the continuing partygate investigation.

Attorney General Suella Braverman has described a minority of men in Parliament behaving like “animals” and said the porn-watching MP should be expelled if found guilty.

Mr Johnson has described the alleged adult film watching as “clearly totally unacceptable”.

Updated: April 29, 2022, 7:11 PM