A Conservative MP is facing a six week suspension from the Commons after a complaints panel found he breached Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy.
The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) found that Rob Roberts MP for Delyn in North Wales, made repeated and unwanted sexual advances towards a male member of parliamentary staff.
Mr Roberts appealed against the sanction, but this was rejected on 17 May.
MPs must now decide if they will back the IEP recommended sanction, which can only be imposed if it is agreed.
Sir Stephen Irwin, chairman of the IEP, said: “The misconduct demonstrated here was significant.
“It is evident that Mr Roberts MP was in a very powerful position as an employer in relation to the reporter.
“Our conclusion is that the determination of six weeks suspension from the service of the House was proper and proportionate.”
However, despite the lengthy proposed suspension, Mr Roberts may escape facing a by-election in his Delyn seat as the process for a petition under the Recall of MPs Act 2015 is not triggered by a punishment imposed on the recommendation of the panel.
For a recall to be initiated, the sanction must be imposed on the recommendation of the Committee on Standards or a similar Commons committee.
The sanction comes after the Conservative Party closed its investigation into Mr Roberts, saying he had been "rebuked" but would remain a Tory member of Parliament.
The complaint was made in June 2020 that Mr Roberts made “repeated and unwanted sexual advances” to the complainant and also made “inappropriate comments of a sexual nature and was overly intrusive about his personal life”.
The IEP report said Mr Roberts acknowledged that aspects of his behaviour towards the man who made the complaint were inappropriate, and offered an apology.
However, he objected to the categorisation of his conduct as “sexual”, preferring the term “romantic”, according to the report.
The case was investigated by the Parliamentary Commission for Standards who found Mr Roberts had breached the sexual misconduct policy.
The MP appealed to the IEP, first against the ruling and then against the proposed sanction.
The recommended suspension takes into account the “abuse of power or authority” by Mr Roberts, but the IEP acknowledged he was going through “several challenges and significant changes in his personal life when he breached the sexual misconduct policy”.
Mr Roberts split from his wife and announced he was gay in 2020.
The panel said the sanction “reflects our view that the sexual misconduct found proved in this case amounts to a serious breach of the behaviour code which has significantly impacted the wellbeing of the reporter and has the propensity to undermine the legitimacy and authority of the House of Commons”.
An independent review
It is one of the first cases to be judged by the independent panel which was appointed to investigate bullying and harassment cases last November.
In June 2020 MPs voted in favour of forming this independent panel of experts which is responsible for dealing with serious cases, such as bullying and sexual harassment allegations against them.
The panel is completely independent of MPs and can recommend sanctions or expulsion of an MP, which then require a vote in Parliament.
Less severe sanctions can also be imposed directly, without the need for a vote.
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.