LONDON — A British lawmaker was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of rape and other sexual assault offences, according to British media, the latest in a string of sexual misconduct allegations against members of parliament in recent weeks.
The Metropolitan Police Service in London confirmed that its officers arrested a man in public office following a complaint received two years ago, but did not confirm his name or occupation.
The arrest follows several incidents of misogyny and allegations of sexual misconduct in recent weeks, as well as the criminal conviction of a lawmaker, a slew of reports that have reignited longstanding concerns about the culture of Westminster Parliament.
Speculation over the identity of the arrested lawmaker has swirled in Westminster, but no official statement identifying the suspect has been released. The office of ruling Tory chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris said in a statement that one of the party’s lawmakers, a man, had been asked not to appear in parliament while the investigation continued. .
Police said in a statement that “a man, in his 50s, has been arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of a position of trust and of misconduct in the public service”. The press release adds that an investigation is ongoing.
The authorities received in January 2020 a report “relating to alleged sexual offenses having been committed between 2002 and 2009”, in London, according to the police press release.
The man was taken into custody but has since been conditionally released, police said.
MPs began weighing in on the allegations on Wednesday. Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, told Sky News she was “concerned by the reports”, but added: “This is clearly a police matter”.
“It is disturbing to see these appalling accusations against a parliamentarian again,” she said.
The arrest follows a number of disturbing incidents in parliament that have shone a spotlight on what appear to be pervasive issues of misogyny and sexual misconduct within the legislature.
The resignation in April of Neil Parish, a Tory lawmaker who admitted watching pornography twice while sitting among his colleagues on the benches in the House of Commons, sparked calls for change.
A few days earlier, another conservative lawmaker, Imran Ahmad Khan, had been expelled from the party after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager; he later resigned his seat.
Last month, The Sunday Times reported that some 56 lawmakers, including three cabinet ministers and two opposition Labor ‘ghost’ ministers, had been referred to an independent watchdog over allegations of sexual misconduct since the creation of the monitor in 2018.
The Prospect union, which represents parliamentary workers, said the lawmaker who was arrested had not been banned from entering the site, but added that there was a voluntary agreement in place with the Conservative Party according to which he would stay away.
The union has called for the legislature to be barred until any investigation is concluded, a call it has also made in previous cases.
Garry Graham, the union’s deputy general secretary, said voluntary agreements were not working, adding that Mr Khan, the recently convicted lawmaker, visited Westminster as inquiries were underway despite his agreement not to. To do.
“What will it take for Parliament to finally take its responsibility to its staff and visitors seriously and suspend access to the estate for MPs under investigation for sexual offences?” he said. “Parliament has the same responsibilities to its staff as any other workplace and it must respect them.”
Rachel Reeves, a prominent Labor Party lawmaker, told broadcaster ITV the incidents “must be a wake-up call” about wrongdoing at Westminster.
“In any other workplace, after accusations like this, they would be banned, and we need to review not only the culture of Westminster, but also the rules, because there is a duty of care to protect other people who work. in the room. of the Commons,” she said.