Andrew Marr puts Sir Robert Buckland on spot about concealing Natalie Elphicke's lobbying approach

15 May 2024, 19:55 | Updated: 15 May 2024, 20:09

Andrew Marr puts Robert Buckland on the spot about Natalie Elphicke

By Will Conroy

Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland has told Andrew Marr he was “rather angry” when Natalie Elphicke approached him to discuss her then-husband’s sexual assault case.

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She is accused of lobbying Sir Robert to help move the date of the case to avoid publicity but has said the claims are "nonsense".

However it was only following Ms Elphicke's defection to Labour last week that the Sunday Times reported she had raised her case with the former minister in July 2020.

When asked by Andrew Marr on LBC why he only revealed her approach at this stage, Sir Robert said: “Well I dealt with the matter at the time. I didn't see the need for anything more to be done other than for me to give it the brush off that it deserved.

“The whips were aware of it. I wouldn't have taken the meeting if I'd known she was going to be talking about an individual case. I did everything that you would expect of me and guarded the gate when it comes to the course of justice.”

When Andrew asked whether he made it clear to Ms Elphicke the conversation was not “proper”, Sir Robert said: “It became very clear to me that it was not a proper one and I was rather angry about it.”

Sir Robert also told the Sunday Times: "She was told in no uncertain terms that it would have been completely inappropriate to speak to the judge about the trial at all."

However, Labour has also questioned why the former justice secretary had not raised the issue sooner. A party spokesman said Mrs Elphicke "totally rejects the characterisation of the meeting". 

They added: "If Robert Buckland had any genuine concerns about the meeting, then he should have raised them at the time, rather than making claims to the newspapers now Natalie has chosen to join the Labour Party.”

In response to the report in the Sunday Times, a spokesman for Mrs Elphicke said: "This is nonsense. It's certainly true that Mr Elphicke continued to be supported after his imprisonment by a large number of Conservative MPs who had known him for a long time, including some who visited him and independently lobbied on his behalf, which was nothing to do with Natalie."

Natalie Elphicke alongside Labour leader Kier Starmer
Natalie Elphicke alongside Labour leader Kier Starmer. Picture: Getty

Charlie Elphicke was found guilty of sexually assaulting two women in 2020 and was jailed for two years.

Ms Elphicke, who replaced her former husband as MP for Dover, stood by him throughout the trial but announced the end of their marriage soon after his conviction.

Read more: 'Traitors never sleep well': Deputy foreign sec hits out at Natalie Elphicke as Labour backs her over 'lobbying' claims

Read more: Jess Phillips calls for independent investigation into Natalie Elphicke lobbying claims

She and four other Conservative MPs were also found to have breached Parliament's code of conduct by attempting to influence legal proceedings.

They had expressed concern to senior judiciary members that a more junior judge was considering publishing character references provided for Mrs Elphicke's husband.

Mrs Elphicke apologised last week after an interview re-surfaced in which she said her ex-husband was "an easy target" for false allegations because he was "attractive".