Tory MP Neil Parish says he may have opened porn by mistake in Commons | Conservatives

The senior Conservative MP under investigation for allegedly watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons chamber has suggested he may have opened it accidentally but has rejected calls to stand down as an MP immediately.

Neil Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon, had the whip suspended after becoming the fourth MP from his party since the last election to face claims of impropriety.

Parish revealed he had referred himself to the standards commissioner on Friday afternoon after senior Tory women expressed outrage at the party for failing to act on complaints made earlier this week, despite being aware of his identity.

In a statement, the 65-year-old wrote on his website: “I will be cooperating fully with any investigation, and whilst it is ongoing I will continue to perform my duties as MP for Tiverton and Honiton.”

Asked later by broadcasters if he had opened something in error in the Commons, he said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.”

However, there were suggestions that a Tory minister also saw him watching porn on a second occasion, in a committee meeting.

Parish said he would consider his position as an MP after the result of the investigation, telling reporters: “I will not remain if I am found guilty.”

His wife, Sue Parish, told the Times the accusations were “all very embarrassing”, adding: “My breath was taken away, frankly.

“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.”

Describing her husband as a “normal … lovely person”, she added: “If you were mad with every man who looked at pornography, you would not have many wives in the world.

“It’s degrading. It’s demeaning. But on the other hand it takes two to tango. There must be women posing for all this.”

When asked what the accusations could mean for her husband’s career, she replied: “I’ve got no idea. It depends on what Chris Heaton-Harris [the Tory chief whip] says, I suppose. 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.”

Labour accused the Tory whips of trying to “cover up” for Parish before finally deciding to withdraw the whip on Friday.

If found to have brought the Commons into disrepute, Parish could be sanctioned and face the possibility of a recall petition, potentially triggering a byelection, if suspended from parliament for more than 10 days.

Allegations of a porn-watching parliamentarian were first aired by Tory MPs in a meeting with Heaton-Harris, the party’s chief whip, on Tuesday.

Heaton-Harris suspended Parish, who has represented his constituency since 2010, from the parliamentary Conservative party pending the outcome of an investigation after they spoke on Friday afternoon.

Harriet Harman told the BBC Radio 4 PM programme that Parish should stand down as an MP. “This marks a new low for the House of Commons,” the senior Labour MP said. “It is not right for him to go through the investigation processes if that is what he has done. Clearly he is not fit to be in parliament. He should accept that and not drag the processes out.”

It was understood that the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment, had begun examining events after at least one witness made a referral.

A second investigation could be launched after Parish’s commitment to refer himself to Kathryn Stone, , the independent parliamentary commissioner for standards, who may consider whether Parish broke the MPs’ code of conduct by causing “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the Commons.

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Parish gave an interview to GB News this week in which he was asked about allegations of a then unidentified Tory MP watching pornography in the Commons.

“I think the whips’ office will do a thorough investigation and we will wait and see that result and from that, then the decision will have to be made what action will be taken,” he said.

Pressed on whether there was a problem with the culture at Westminster, Parish said: “We’ve got some 650 members of parliament in what is a very intense area. You are going to get people who step over the line. It does have to be dealt with and dealt with seriously.”

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