The UK MP, who is under investigation in the House of Commons for allegedly viewing pornography, has been backed by the Security Secretary for his refusal to resign immediately.
Achel Maclean suggested on Saturday that “appropriate action will be taken” to protect Neil Parish constituents after promising to continue with his duties while the investigation is ongoing.
Senior Conservative Caroline Nokes said it will be “difficult” for Mr Parish to spend the required time chairing a select committee in Parliament.
She also accused the Tory whips of “procrastinating and delaying” by not suspending the MP from the parliamentary group by Friday, despite colleagues making the claims in a meeting three days earlier.
In an interview apparently conducted in his dressing gown at his Somerset farmhouse on Friday night, Mr Parish told the Telegraph that “it’s almost like a weight being lifted off me”, now the allegation is “open ended”.
The backbencher has pledged to continue his “duties” as MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon and as chairman of the Commons Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
He said he may have accidentally opened the pornography when referring himself to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone for investigation.
But senior Tory Karen Bradley urged him to stay away from Parliament and Harriet Harman, the longest-serving female MP, called for his immediate resignation.
Ms Maclean, the minister responsible for women’s protection, said “what he has done is clearly unacceptable” and that he should resign if he is found to have viewed the material intentionally.
When asked by Times Radio if it was appropriate for him to continue during the investigation, she said, “I really think that’s an issue for him.”
But she added: “I want to make it clear that he is not continuing with his business as usual, he is under investigation and I am confident that the appropriate measures will be taken to protect all of his constituents, particularly women and girls.” “
The Conservative Party was asked what action will be taken.
Ms Nokes, Chair of the Women and Equality Committee, agreed that “it is right that investigations are carried out before any further action is taken”.
However, she suggested it will be a challenge for Mr Parish, who has been an MP since 2010, to continue to lead his committee examining environmental matters.
“It’s a high-level and responsible position and as Chair of the Select Committee I know how seriously I take this job,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“This is a matter for Neil to discuss with party leaders and take a position on, but I think while he is being investigated he will find it very difficult to be in the House of Commons as much as he needs to be.”
Ms Nokes also expressed concern at how quickly Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris acted, despite two MPs voicing their concerns on Tuesday night.
“I felt like letting it through Friday before we knew the whips had taken action made it feel like unnecessary tremors and delays,” she said.
Mr Parish, a 65-year-old farmer, said he would resign if found guilty Ms Stone, who is yet to say whether she will open an investigation.
Separately, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which investigates allegations of bullying and sexual harassment, is said to have started investigating the incidents after at least one witness made a report.
Mr Parish said in a statement on his website he would “fully cooperate with any investigation and while it is ongoing I will continue to carry out my duties”.
Later asked by reporters if he had opened something in the House of Commons by mistake, he said: “I did, but let the Inquiry look at it.”
However, there was evidence that a Tory minister also observed him watching porn a second time in a committee meeting.
Ms Bradley, the chair of the procedures committee, said she would “urge him not to come to Parliament during the investigation” and was aware he would have to stop if found guilty.
“I’m struggling to find an excuse, I’m struggling to find a reason that could mean it was acceptable, but let’s let the investigation take its course,” she told Channel 4 News.
Labour’s Ms Harman called on Mr Parish to resign amid a ‘new low for the House of Commons’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “If he has done that he should resign from Parliament immediately. It’s not right that he’s going through the pre-trial process once he’s done that.
“He is clearly not suitable for parliament. He should accept that and not prolong the processes.”
Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to urge Mr Parish to “resign immediately”.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/britain/uk-minister-backs-tory-neil-parish-to-carry-on-as-mp-during-pornography-inquiry-41602838.html UK minister backs Tory Neil Parish to continue as MP amid pornography probe