Tory frontbencher ‘caught watching porn in House of Commons’ as chief whip investigates

The Conservative Party has launched an investigation into claims a senior MP watched pornography on his phone in the House of Commons.

The office of chief Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris said “action will be taken” over the claim, which comes as misogny in politics is under heightened scrutiny.

A female minister who said she was sat next to the unnamed frontbencher at the time told colleagues about the incident at a meeting of Tory MPs in Westminster on Tuesday night, according to reports.

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson said the alleged behaviour was “totally unacceptable”, adding “allegations like this are taken incredibly seriously”. They added: “While the chief is looking into it there nothing further we can say.”

Asked whether watching pornography at work was a sackable offence, the spokesperson said: “I am not aware of the disciplinary action. Obviously, it is wholly unacceptable behaviour and it is being looked into.”

Tuesday evening’s meeting of 40-50 members of the 2022 group of Tory MPs, attended by Mr Heaton-Harris, leader of the Commons Mark Spencer and party chair Oliver Dowden, is understood to have heard around a dozen women complain of sexist behaviour by colleagues.

One MP said that they recounted “experiences of disgusting, deeply sexist comments that wouldn’t be tolerated in any company or organisation”, including “sexually lewd” remarks.

Reports suggested that the MP alleged to have watch porn in the Commons chamber was not named at the meeting, though his identity may have been passed to the chief whip later.

The meeting was held after The Sunday Times reported that 56 MPs, including three cabinet minsters, were under investigation over claims of sexual misconduct referred to the Independent Complaints and Grievances Scheme.

No 10 would not be drawn on the alleged investigations into cabinet ministers, and would not say whether the Tory party was looking into the claims.

“We obviously take all such allegations extremely seriously but there is an independent process in place and it is right not to speak on its behalf,” the PM’s press secretary said.

When asked about the incident earlier at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson said ministers would face dismissal if misconduct claims against them were upheld by the investigations.

One Tory MP, Brendan Clarke-Smith, told the BBC’s Politics Live that the reported behaviour was “unacceptable in any workplace”.

“If somebody has done that then, quite rightly, I would expect there to be some consequences for that,” he said.

Saying he would “call it out” if he saw it happening, Mr Clarke-Smith added: “I think that’s incredibly unprofessional. I would hope that when they’re in the chamber they’re concentrating on what they’re doing and not their mobile phones.”

He added: “I can’t even get a wi-fi signal in the chamber.”

The allegations were reported on the same day that an article in The Mail on Sunday quoted an anonymous Tory MP making sexist claims against Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner.

Ms Rayner hit out at the “sexist slurs” aimed at her as the editor of The Mail On Sunday refused a meeting with the Commons Speaker to discuss the article.

Labour leader Starmer stood by deputy Rayner at PMQs

(UK Parliament)

On Wednesday,The Daily Mail published comments made by Ms Rayner on Matt Forde’s light-hearted political podcast in January in which she discussed comparisons between her attire in the Commons and a famous scene in movie Basic Instinct where Sharon Stone crosses and uncrosses her legs. The same scene was cited in Sunday’s article.

After the comments were reported, Ms Rayner said on Wednesday: “I said to [Mr Forde] in January that the sexist film parody about me was misogynistic and it still is now.

“As women we sometimes try to brush aside the sexism we face, but that doesn’t make it ok.”

She added: “‘The Mail’ implies today that I somehow enjoy being subjected to sexist slurs. I don’t. They are mortifying and deeply hurtful.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer raised the article at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, calling on Mr Johnson to agree there was “no place” for misogyny in modern Britain.

Sir Keir said: “I know the prime minister will have whipped his backbenchers to scream and shout and that is fine. But I hope he has also sent a clear message that there is no place for sexism and misogyny or looking down on people because of where they come from in his party, in this house, or in modern Britain.”

Mr Johnson replied that he had “exchanged messages” with Ms Rayner at the weekend after the Mail on Sunday article was published.

He added: “I repeat what I said to her, there can be absolutely no place for such behaviour or such expression in this house and we should treat each other frankly, with the respect that each other deserves.”

Asked by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas about the reports of sexual misconduct investigations into MPs, including three cabinet ministers, Mr Johnson said a guilty verdict would be “grounds for dismissal” for ministers.

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