Boris Johnson has defended the decision not to suspend a senior Tory MP who was arrested on suspicion of rape.
The prime minister insisted on Thursday that the allegation is being taken “extremely seriously” after the Conservatives defied calls to remove the whip from the former minister.
Johnson, in his first comments about the arrest, said a decision will be made when the police investigation is concluded.
“I think it’s very, very important that we take all these cases extremely seriously and we will continue to do so,” he told reporters during a visit to Warrington.
“I think we’ve got to wait for the police to decide whether they want to make charges and take a decision on that basis.”
On Friday, Scotland Yard received allegations of sexual offences and assault relating to four incidents at addresses in London, including in Westminster.
The unnamed MP was arrested the following day on suspicion of raping the woman and was taken into custody before being bailed until mid-August.
Labour’s shadow safeguarding minister Jess Phillips was among those who criticised the Tories for not suspending the whip from the MP.
She told Times Radio it sent a “terrible message” that powerful figures can secure “protection” with their Westminster status.
“While pending a police investigation for a sexual crime, I think it is only right that the whip is withdrawn,” she said.
The investigation was launched days after former Tory MP Charlie Elphicke was convicted at Southwark Crown Court in a separate case of sexually assaulting two women.
He had the whip removed in November 2017 when the allegations first surfaced, but it was controversially restored before a confidence vote in then prime minister Theresa May’s leadership the following year.
But the party suspended him again on the day Elphicke was formally charged in July 2019.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?