Peter Bone has Tory whip removed after bullying and sexual misconduct allegations against staff

17 October 2023, 15:39 | Updated: 17 October 2023, 15:47

Peter Bone has had the Tory whip removed
Peter Bone has had the Tory whip removed. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

Peter Bone has had the Tory whip removed after a report found he committed acts of bullying and sexual misconduct.

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A spokesman for Chief Whip Simon Hart said: "Following a report by the Independent Expert Panel, the Chief Whip has removed the conservative whip from Peter Bone MP."

Yesterday he was recommended for a six-week suspension from the Commons after being found to have committed bullying and sexual misconduct against a staff member.

Parliament's Independent Expert Panel (IEP) said the MP for Wellingborough "committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct" against a member of his staff in 2012 and 2013.

The suspension, if approved by MPs, could lead to the Conservative facing a recall petition that would pave the way for another possible by-election.

Mr Bone said the allegations are "false and untrue" and "without foundation" as he vowed to continue representing his constituents.

Writing on social media, Mr Bone, who was appointed deputy leader of the House of Commons by Boris Johnson, said the earlier Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) investigation into him "was flawed, procedurally unfair and didn't comply with its own rules and regulations".

Five allegations by a Westminster staffer were made in October 2021, having had a complaint to then-prime minister Theresa May in 2017 unresolved, according to the IEP report.

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The complaints included four allegations of bullying, saying Mr Bone:

- "Verbally belittled, ridiculed, abused and humiliated" his employee

- "Repeatedly physically struck and threw things" at him, including hitting him with his hand or an object such as a pencil or a rolled-up document

- Imposed an "unwanted and humiliating ritual" on him by forcing him to sit with his hands in his lap when the MP was unhappy with his work

- Ostracised the complainant following an incident on a work trip to Madrid.

The complainant also alleged that Mr Bone had "repeatedly pressurised" the member of staff to give him a massage in the office and, on a visit to Madrid with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, indecently exposed himself to the complainant in the bathroom and bedroom of the hotel room they were sharing.

Following an investigation, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner upheld all four allegations of bullying and the allegation of sexual misconduct relating to the incident in Madrid. However, he found the demands for massages were bullying, not sexual misconduct.

Mr Bone appealed against the decision, which was then upheld by a sub-panel of the IEP, which described it as a "serious case of misconduct" including "a deliberate and conscious abuse of power using a sexual mechanism".

The sub-panel said: "The bullying involved violence, shouting and swearing, mocking, belittling and humiliating behaviour, and ostracism. It was often in front of others...The respondent specifically targeted the complainant."

In his response to the IEP's findings, Mr Bone said: "As I have maintained throughout these proceedings, none of the misconduct allegations against me ever took place. They are false and untrue claims. They are without foundation."

He said the complainant had not raised the issues during their employment and said ICGS rules meant he could not "detail my views on the huge inconsistencies and lack of evidence in the allegations".

Mr Bone said that witness statements were submitted by 10 employees of the "highest integrity", testifying to how "professional, accommodating and friendly place my office is to work".

But investigators backed the complainant's testimony that included a log of events written at the time, evidence from two key witnesses present at many of the events, and family members who the complainant reported the events to.

Claiming the ICGS investigation was "procedurally unfair", Mr Bone said he is "discussing with lawyers what action could and should be taken".

According to the IEP's report, the complainant's father wrote to then-prime minister David Cameron in December 2015 to complain about Mr Bone's conduct, which he had learned of around a year earlier.

The complainant then submitted a formal complaint to Mr Cameron's successor, Ms May, in September 2017 and the Conservative Party began an investigation, which had still not been resolved by August 2022.

Downing Street said Rishi Sunak has "been clear about the importance of integrity, professionalism and accountability being core values at the heart of Government".

"He wants those standards to be rigorously upheld," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said, facing questions over the level of sleaze allegations MPs have faced.

Mr Bone will now face a vote in the Commons on the six-week suspension recommended by the IEP report, with the Standards Committee required to produce a report formally recommending the suspension within three sitting days in order to trigger the vote.

If his suspension is approved, it will trigger a recall petition that could lead to a by-election in Mr Bone's Wellingborough constituency, where he has a majority of 18,540.

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