LONDON -- A U.K. Conservative lawmaker was released on bail Wednesday while police investigate allegations of rape and sexual assault against him, the latest in a series of sexual misconduct allegations that have led some to label Britain's Parliament a toxic workplace.
The legislator was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office. Police, who identified the suspect only as a man in his 50s, said the arrest followed a report of alleged offenses that took place in London between 2002 and 2009.
House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle told lawmakers that “a member has been arrested in connection with an investigation into an allegation of very serious criminal offenses.”
He said the lawmaker would stay away from Parliament while police were investigating.
“I, the House of Commons Commission and the House service take the safety of our staff and parliamentary community as a whole very seriously and are ensuring any necessary measures are taken in respect of MPs, employees and staff,” Hoyle said.
Britain’s Parliament was long known for its boozy, macho culture and late-night hours. That has changed in recent years, but parliamentary authorities acknowledge that bullying and other forms of misbehavior remain a problem in a loosely regulated workplace where several thousand people — from senior government ministers to young staffers — work long hours under intense pressure.
Staff members have been encouraged to report inappropriate behavior to Parliament’s complaints watchdog, and several lawmakers have faced sex crimes charges.
Conservative legislator Charlie Elphicke was jailed in 2020 for sexually assaulting two women, and earlier this month Imran Ahmad Khan resigned as Conservative lawmaker after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy.
Another Tory legislator, Neil Parish, resigned after looking at porn on his phone in the Commons chamber. Another, David Warburton, has been suspended from the Conservative group in Parliament over allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use.
The Conservative Party hasn't suspended the arrested lawmaker, partly because doing so would make his identity public.
Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Jess Phillips said there was “a gap in the process” that favors “the individual who is accused, charged or convicted against the balance of the safeguarding and safety of the other 6,000 people who work here."
“The reality is … the Speaker of the House of Commons can only ask this person not to come here. That’s it," she told the BBC.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who is also the equalities minister, said “the culture of the House of Commons has changed and needs to change further.”
“I think there needs to be more to be done to professionalize the way the House of Commons works,” she told radio station LBC. But she added, “I don’t think that’s an excuse for people to commit appalling crimes.”