A UK Conservative Member of Parliament has been suspended from the House of Commons for eight weeks after an investigation found that he had sexually harassed two men at a nightclub in London last year.
Chris Pincher, who represents Tamworth in Staffordshire, was accused of groping and kissing the men without their consent at a private event in February 2020.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Stone, conducted a thorough inquiry into the allegations and concluded that Pincher had breached the code of conduct for MPs by acting in a way that brought the House into disrepute.
She also found that he had failed to cooperate fully with her investigation and had given misleading evidence. Pincher accepted the findings and apologized for his behavior, saying he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions. He will be suspended from the House from 11 July to 5 September, during which time he will not be able to vote, speak or receive any salary or expenses.
This is the longest suspension imposed on an MP since 2018, when Ian Paisley Jr was banned for 30 sitting days for failing to declare two luxury holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government. The suspension of Pincher is another blow to the Conservative Party, which has faced several scandals involving its MPs in recent months.
In May, Rob Roberts was sacked as a ministerial aide after he propositioned a young female intern and sent inappropriate messages to a male parliamentary worker. In June, Owen Paterson resigned as an MP after he was found to have lobbied ministers on behalf of two companies that paid him £100,000 a year. And in July, Matt Hancock resigned as Health Secretary after he was caught breaking Covid-19 rules by kissing his aide Gina Coladangelo in his office.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been criticized for his handling of these cases and for failing to uphold high standards of conduct among his MPs. He has also been accused of hypocrisy for defending some of his allies while condemning others.
Some commentators have suggested that the suspension of Pincher could trigger a by-election in Tamworth, where he won with a majority of 12,783 votes in 2019. However, this would require at least 10% of the electorate to sign a recall petition, which is unlikely to happen during the summer recess. Pincher has said he hopes to return to his duties as an MP after his suspension and to regain the trust of his constituents.