Neil Parish resigns after watching porn in Commons - but says he meant to look at tractors

30 April 2022, 13:08 | Updated: 30 April 2022, 21:10

  • Neil Parish has admitted watching porn in the House of Commons, but said the first time he was trying to look at tractors
  • He said he will quit after seeing the fallout's impact on his family, constituency and local Tories
  • He had the Tory whip removed and an investigation has been launched
  • Mr Parish appeared ready to try and stay on as MP on Friday
  • His wife first heard of the allegation when a journalist phoned her for comment
Neil Parish said he was meaning to look at tractors on his phone in the House of Commons but he accidentally watched porn
Neil Parish said he was meaning to look at tractors on his phone in the House of Commons but he accidentally watched porn. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Neil Parish is resigning as MP after admitting he watched porn in a "moment of madness", but said on the first occasion he was intending to look at pictures of tractors.

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He admitted on Saturday that he watched it twice in the House of Commons, saying it was a "moment of madness" and he was "not proud of what I was doing".

The first time happened accidentally after watching looking at tractors on his phone, he claimed, but the second time he intended to view it.

"The situation was that - funnily enough it was tractors I was looking at," he told the BBC.

"I did get into another website that had a very similar name and I watched it for a bit which I shouldn't have done. But my crime - biggest crime - is that on another occasion I went in a second time.

"That was deliberate... that was sitting waiting to vote on the side of the chamber."

The emotional MP said he would quit after seeing the scandal's impact on his family, constituency and local Tory association, and added: "What I did was absolutely totally wrong."

He denied watching the porn in a way that he hoped others would see it, and went on: "I make a full apology. A total full apology. It was not my intention to intimidate."

A spokesperson for Tiverton and Honiton Conservatives said: "We would like to take this opportunity to thank Neil Parish for his service to our communities over the past 12 years.

"We support his decision to step down as our Member of Parliament."

He triggered an outcry after two female colleagues said they had seen him watching a lewd video in the Commons, leading to him losing the Tory whip.

It comes after an article in the Mail on Sunday sparked a row about sexism in parliament.

In the piece, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner was accused of trying to distract Boris Johnson in the House of Commons by crossing and uncrossing her legs.

The paper included a quote from one MP saying Ms Rayner "knows she can't compete with Boris's Oxford Union debating training, but she has other skills which he lacks".

Ms Rayner previously hit out at the "sexism and classism" she says were behind the newspaper publishing the story.

Read more: Rayner wears trousers to avoid being 'judged for what she wears' in TV appearance

Calls for Mr Parish to go grew as he insisted he wanted to carry on working for his constituents on Friday.

The MP told the Telegraph on Friday that "I'm beginning to relax now... and strangely, now [the accusation was] out in the open, it's almost as if a weight is lifted off me, really".

"So we will let it take this process now. Whatever people may say, I've been a pretty hard-working MP and I shall carry on doing so until such time as I make a decision either to remain or to go," he said.

He had referred himself to the Standards Committee of the House of Commons, using phrasing that said it followed "an MP's use of their mobile phone in Parliament".

Mr Parish said at the time he would resign if found guilty by Kathryn Stone, Parliament's standards commissioner, who is yet to say whether she will open an investigation.

The Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme started looking into what happened after a witness made a referral to it. The scheme looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment.

Mr Parish, a farmer who chairs the Commons environment committee, previously told reporters that he had opened a file in error but wanted the inquiry into what happened to assess that.

Read more: Tory MP who 'watched porn by mistake' refuses to quit as wife speaks of 'embarrassment'

Local Tory officers were said to be saddened by the affair.

His wife, Sue, said she first heard about the claims after a journalist called her for a comment.

"I didn't know who was more embarrassed, actually, me or him! Poor chap," she said.

Mr Parish has been accused of watching porn in Parliament
Mr Parish has been accused of watching porn in Parliament. Picture: Alamy

Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean told LBC on Saturday Mr Parish should "of course" resign.

Thangam Debbonaire MP, Labour's Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, said before Mr Parish's resignation: "The Conservatives knew for days about the disgusting behaviour of one of their MPs and tried to cover it up.

"From the Owen Paterson scandal to their failure to act against their paedophile MP Imran Ahmad Khan, this is a government rotting from the head down. Britain deserves better."