Neil Parish: MP accused of watching porn in Commons should be kicked out of Tory party if guilty, says minister

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Neil Parish

An MP under investigation for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons should be kicked out of the Tory party if he is found guilty, a minister has said.

Neil Parish, who had the Conservative whip suspended on Friday, said he opened a file by mistake and would continue with his parliamentary duties while inquiries are ongoing.

The Tiverton and Honiton MP referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on Friday, days after two female Tory MPs said they witnessed him watching pornography on his mobile phone on two separate occasions – once in the Commons chamber and another at a committee.

Speaking to Sky News, safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean maintained her position the MP should be kicked out of the party if he is found guilty.

She said: “Clearly if this is substantiated and those allegations turn out to be true, of course I stand by what I said, but at the same time there is now an investigation so it wouldn’t be helpful for me to speculate on the specific outcomes.

“This type of behaviour has no place in any workplace let alone parliament, but I think everybody would accept that when there’s an allegation that’s made… it isn’t really for us, as colleagues, to sit on judgment on another colleague, it is for that process to take.”

On Friday, Mr Parish, asked at his Somerset home if he opened a file “by error”, said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.”

He said he would await the findings of the investigation while continuing his “duties” but would “not remain” if he was found guilty.

He told the Daily Telegraph: “Now it’s out in the open, it’s almost as if a weight is lifted off me.”

However, there have been calls for him to resign immediately with Labour’s Harriet Harman saying he should stand down from parliament “right away”.

The longest-standing female MP described the situation as a “new low for the House of Commons” and said Mr Parish is “not fit to be in parliament”.

“He should accept that and not drag the processes out,” she told BBC Radio 4.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to order Mr Parish to “resign immediately”, saying the behaviour would “count as gross misconduct” in any other workplace.

WHO IS NEIL PARISH?

A farmer by trade, Neil Parish has been the MP for Tiverton and Honiton since 2010. Before that, he was an MEP.

A father of two and grandfather of two, he still lives on the family farm, according to his official website.

At the last election, he held a healthy majority of 24,239, securing 60% of the vote.

Throughout his time in politics, his focus has “always been standing up for residents and being a strong voice for the countryside”, his biography states.

He is the current chair of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and as such also sits on the powerful Liaison Committee.

Mr Parish campaigned to remain in the EU as he said he believed that was “the best option for British agriculture”. However, he promised to “fight tooth and nail” to get the best Brexit deal for farmers.

His wife, Sue Parish, with whom he has been married for 40 years, said the whole episode was “just a bit stupid” and the allegations were “very embarrassing”.

Asked if she was aware of her husband viewing porn before, she told The Times: “No. He’s quite a normal guy, really. He’s a lovely person. It’s just so stupid.

“People shouldn’t be looking at pornography. He would never just sit there with people looking. He would never just do that knowing [people were looking].

“These ladies were quite right to be as [upset] as they were. I’ve just no idea what happens in these circumstances. I don’t know whether it’s ever happened before.”

She added that pornography is “degrading, demeaning” to women but said it would be “stupid” to let it come between them, adding: “I’m fairly tough, you’ve got to carry on, haven’t you?”

Two female Conservative MPs made the accusation against Mr Parish during a meeting of women Tory backbench MPs on Tuesday evening, but the whips office had not publicly named him.

One MP at the meeting said Tory chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris looked “horrified” as they informed him, and asked for the man’s identity.

Mr Parish is now understood to be the focus of two investigations – one by the parliamentary commissioner Kathryn Stone after he referred himself to her, and another by the Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme (ICGS), which one of the female MP witnesses referred him to.

On Thursday, Boris Johnson addressed the allegation for the first time, saying: “It’s obviously unacceptable for anybody to be doing that kind of thing in the workplace.

“It would be the same for any job up and down the country.

“Clearly that kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable.” -Sky News