MP under investigation for watching porn in Commons says he opened file by mistake – and refuses to immediately resign

Politics

An MP under investigation for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons said he opened a file by mistake but would step down if he is found guilty.

Conservative MP Neil Parish 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 in the Commons chamber and at a committee.

The Tiverton and Honiton MP, 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 but would “not remain if I am found guilty”.

Mr Parish, who was suspended by the party on Friday, said he would “fully comply” with the investigation as he apologised and revealed he only told his wife this afternoon.

Sue Parish, who he has been married to 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?”

Mrs Parish said she did not know what was going to happen to her husband’s career but told The Times: “I don’t think it’s going to carry on, is it?

“It’s so stupid. He’s such a good MP. He’s such a good person.”

Neil Parish

Chief whip looked ‘horrified’

Mr Parish’s name was revealed by the Tory’s chief whip after the MP reported himself to the Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, on Friday.

A spokesman for the chief whip said: “Mr Parish has been suspended from the Conservative Whip pending the outcome of that investigation.”

Politics hub: Lib Dems call for Neil Parish’s resignation and Labour accuse Tories of ‘cover up’

In a statement, 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.”

He said he will be “cooperating fully with any investigation” and will continue to perform his MP duties.

Two female Conservative MPs made the allegation 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.

Around 50 to 60 female Tory MPs are said to have been present at the meeting.

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 on Friday, and another by the Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme (ICGS), which one of the female MP witnesses referred him to.

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.

Labour accuse Tories of ‘cover up’

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons, said: “The Conservatives knew for days about the disgusting behaviour of one of their MPs and tried to cover it up.

“From the Owen Paterson scandal to their failure to act against their paedophile MP Imran Ahmad Khan, this is a government rotting from the head down. Britain deserves better.”

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.”

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Porn watching MP ‘unacceptable’

Other cabinet ministers also spoke out against the allegations, with government efficiency minister Jacob Rees-Mogg saying it was “extraordinary and appalling”.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the culture needed to change in Westminster following “several instances of inappropriate and sexist behaviour”.

Attorney general Suella Braverman suggested that if the allegations were proven the culprit could be suspended or even expelled from parliament.

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