LONDON – A British lawmaker was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of rape and other sex crimes, according to British news media, the latest in a series of allegations of sexual misconduct against MPs in recent weeks.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service has confirmed that its officers have arrested a man who held public office following a complaint received two years ago, but have not confirmed his name or his profession.
The arrest follows several incidents of misogyny and sexual misconduct allegations in recent weeks, and the criminal conviction of a lawmaker, a slew of reports that have fueled long-standing concerns about the Westminster parliament’s culture.
There is speculation about the identity of the arrested Westminster lawmaker, but no official statement has been released identifying the suspect. The office of the ruling Conservatives chief, Chris Heaton-Harris, said in a statement that one of the party’s lawmakers, a man, had been asked not to come to parliament while the investigation continued.
Police said in a statement that “a man in his 50s has been arrested on charges of indecent assault, assault, rape, abuse of trust and misconduct in public office”. The statement added that an investigation was underway.
Authorities received a report in January 2020 “relating to alleged sex crimes committed between 2002 and 2009,” the police statement said.
The man was arrested but has since been released on parole, police said.
MPs began weighing in on the allegations on Wednesday. Liz Truss, the secretary of state, told Sky News she was “concerned about the reports”, but added: “This is clearly a matter for the police.”
“It is alarming to see these horrific allegations against a parliamentarian again,” she said.
The arrest follows a number of disturbing incidents in Parliament that have thrown the spotlight on what appear to be pervasive issues of misogyny and sexual misconduct in the legislature.
The April firing of Neil Parish, a conservative lawmaker who admitted to watching pornography twice while sitting on the benches of the House of Commons among his colleagues, called for change.
Days earlier, another conservative lawmaker, Imran Ahmad Khan, was 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 ‘shadow’ opposition Labor party ministers, had been referred to an independent watchdog over allegations of sexual misconduct since the monitor in 2018 was founded.
The Prospect union, which represents parliamentary workers, said the lawmaker who was arrested had not been barred from accessing the site, but added that there was a voluntary agreement with the Conservative party that he would stay away.
The union has called for a suspension of the legislature until the conclusion of each investigation, a call it has 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, had visited Westminster while investigations were underway, despite agreeing not to.
“What will it take for Parliament to finally take seriously its responsibilities to its staff and visitors and suspend access to the estate for MPs under investigation for sex crimes?” he said. “Parliament has the same responsibilities to its staff as any other workplace and it must fulfill them.”
Rachel Reeves, a senior Labor Party legislator, told ITV the incidents should be “a wake-up call” about wrongdoing in Westminster.
“In any other workplace they would be banned after such allegations, and we need to rethink not only the culture of Westminster but the rules as well, as there is a duty of care to protect other people who work in the House. of the House of Commons,” she said.