LONDON – A British lawmaker was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of rape and other sexual assault offenses, according to British news media reports, the latest in a string of sexual misconduct allegations against members of Parliament in recent weeks.
London’s Metropolitan Police Service has confirmed that its officers arrested a man serving in public office over a complaint received two years ago, but did not confirm his name or his occupation.
The arrest follows several incidents of misogyny and allegations of sexual misconduct in recent weeks, and the criminal conviction of a lawmaker, a slew of reports that has renewed longstanding concerns about the culture of the Westminster Parliament.
Speculation about the arrested lawmaker’s identity has swirled in Westminster, but no official statement identifying the suspect has been published. The office of the chief whip of the governing Conservatives, Chris Heaton-Harris, said in a statement that one of the party’s lawmakers, a man, had been asked not to come to Parliament while the investigation continued.
The police said in a statement that “a man, aged in his 50s, was arrested on suspicion of indecent assault, sexual assault, rape, abuse of position of trust and misconduct in public office.” The statement added that an investigation was ongoing.
The authorities received a report in January 2020 “relating to alleged sexual offenses having been committed between 2002 and 2009,” in London, the police statement said.
The man was taken into custody but has since been conditionally released, the police said.
Members of Parliament began weighing in on the allegations on Wednesday. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, told Sky News that she was “concerned about the reports” but added, “Clearly this is a matter for the police.”
“It is worrying that we are seeing these appalling accusations again about a parliamentarian,” she said.
The arrest comes on the heels of a number of troubling incidents in Parliament that have shone the spotlight on what appear to be pervasive issues of misogyny and sexual misconduct in the legislature.
The resignation in April of Neil Parish, a Conservative lawmaker who admitted to watching pornography twice while seated among his colleagues on the benches of the House of Commons, brought calls for change.
Days before that, another Conservative lawmaker, Imran Ahmad Khan, was expelled from the party after being found guilty of sexually assaulting a teenager; he later resigned his seat.
Last month, The Sunday Times reported that some 56 lawmakers, including three cabinet ministers and two “shadow” cabinet ministers from the opposition Labor Party, had been referred to an independent watchdog over sexual misconduct claims since the monitor was created in 2018.
The Prospect union, which represents parliamentary workers, said the lawmaker who was arrested had not been barred from entering the site, but added that there was a voluntary agreement in place with the Conservative Party that he would stay away.
The union has called for the lawmaker to be barred until the conclusion of any investigation, a call it has also made in previous cases.
Garry Graham, the deputy general secretary of the union, said that voluntary agreements did not work, adding that Mr. Khan, the recently convicted lawmaker, had attended Westminster while investigations were ongoing despite agreeing not to.
“What will it take for Parliament to finally take its responsibility to its staff and visitors seriously and suspend access to the estate for parliamentarians under investigation for sexual offenses?” he said. “Parliament has the same responsibilities towards its staff as any other workplace and it must live up to them.”
Rachel Reeves, a senior Labor Party lawmaker, told the broadcaster ITV that the incidents “have to be a wake up call” about wrongdoing in Westminster.
“In any other workplace, after accusations like this they would be banned, and we do need to look again at not just the culture of Westminster but also about the rules because there is a duty of care to protect other people that work in the House of Commons, ”she said.