Tories investigating claims MP watched pornography in Commons

Newspaper editor refuses to meet house speaker over ‘misogynstic’ article about Rayner

Conservative whips are investigating claims that one of their MPs watched pornography on his phone while sitting next to a female MP in the House of Commons chamber. Chief whip Chris Heaton-Harris promised to act on the claims, which were made by women Conservative MPs at a meeting this week when they shared accounts of misogyny and sexual harassment.

”This behaviour is wholly unacceptable and action will be taken,” his spokeswoman said.

The allegations follow a furore at Westminster over a report in the Mail on Sunday that Conservative MPs claimed that Labour's deputy leader Angela Rayner was putting Boris Johnson off his stride by crossing and uncrossing her legs in the House of Commons.

The newspaper’s editor declined to meet Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle to discuss the report, which was widely condemned as sexist, and the prime minister’s press secretary said he backed the editor.


“The prime minister is uncomfortable at the idea of our free press being summoned by politicians. We have a free press in this country and reporters must be free to report what they are told as they see fit,” she said.

The Sunday Times reported this week that 56 MPs, including three cabinet ministers and two shadow cabinet minsters, were under investigation by parliamentary authorities over allegations of sexual misconduct. But the prime minister’s press secretary denied that the Conservative Party had a problem with misogyny and sexism.

“You will have heard the PM address this explicitly in parliament today and over the last few days, saying there is absolutely no place for such behaviour and this cannot be tolerated in any workplace,” she said.

At Monday’s meeting of the so-called 2022 group of Conservative women, MPs spoke about the demeaning remarks made to them by male colleagues, including comments on what they wore and speculation about their private lives. One reported that when a female MP wore a knee-length leather skirt a male colleague said: “That’s a nice outfit. What do you do for your day job?”

Tax status

Meanwhile, Christopher Geidt, the independent adviser on ministers' interests, has cleared chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak of breaking the ministerial code over declarations about his wife's tax status and his own US green card.

Lord Geidt said that Mr Sunak had been assiduous in following the rules on disclosing his wife’s financial affairs , and said the possession of a green card did not create a conflict of interest for a government minister.

"A US permanent resident card allows the holder to live and work permanently in the United States. It imposes a number of obligations on the holder, including a requirement to comply with US law and to file tax returns in the United States," he said.

“Considering the card against the specific responsibilities of the chancellor’s ministerial offices subsequent to his first role, I do not consider that its possession would constitute an inherent conflict of interest. Being subject to the obligations imposed by the card in his personal life could not reasonably be said to be in tension with the faithful discharge of his duties as chief secretary to the treasury or as chancellor of the exchequer.”

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times