Honiton MP has Tory whip suspended over porn watching in Commons claims

Neil Parish is hoping to retain his Tiverton and Honiton seat for the Conservatives. Picture Chris C

Honiton and Tiverton MP Neil Parish - Credit: Archant

MP Neil Parish has been suspended by the Conservatives while under investigation for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons chamber.

The Tiverton and Honiton MP had the Tory whip withdrawn on Friday (April 29) pending the result of the investigation after a conversation with Tory Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris.

An investigation by the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) was launched after the allegations surfaced during a meeting of Tory MPs on Tuesday.

Mr Parish, the chair of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, has represented the Devon constituency since 2019.

A spokeswoman for Mr Heaton-Harris said: "Having spoken to the Chief Whip this afternoon, Neil Parish MP is reporting himself to the Standards Committee of the House of Commons.
"Mr Parish has been suspended from the Conservative whip pending the outcome of that investigation."

In a statement 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 cooperating fully with any investigation, and whilst it is ongoing I will continue to perform my duties as MP for Tiverton and Honiton.

"I will not be making further comments at this stage."

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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 the Standards Committee.

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

But it is thought one investigation for Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone could be whether Mr Parish caused "significant damage to the reputation and integrity" of the Commons.

Mr Parish was asked about the allegations during an appearance on GB News earlier this week, first on whether the MP in question should have the whip removed.

"I think the whips office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result and I think from that then the decision will have to be made what action will be taken," he responded.

He then 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."

The leader of the Labour Group on East Devon District Council, Cllr Jake Bonetta, said: “The actions of Neil Parish MP serve to massively harm our local trust in democracy. The thoughts of myself and the rest of the local Labour Party are with all victims of this gross misconduct.

"We deserve strong representation from our MP that is honest, transparent, and true to our communities. Neil Parish has broken every single one of these tenets with his actions today. But, most importantly, he has lost the trust of not only his colleagues, but the people that elected him.

""I call on Neil Parish to do the right thing and offer our communities an urgent explanation - one which we so rightly deserve.”

Shadow Commons leader Thangam Debbonaire accused the Government of "rotting from the head down".

The Labour frontbencher said: "The Conservatives knew for days about the disgusting behaviour of one of their MPs and tried to cover it up."

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

"If Boris Johnson had any shred of decency left, he would tell Neil Parish to resign immediately," she said.

"In any other workplace this would count as gross misconduct and the person responsible would lose their job. Parliament should be no different.

"We don't need to insult the women MPs who witnessed this with a lengthy investigation. All his bosses need to do is ask for his devices and look at his viewing history, this isn't rocket science."