Theresa May is attempting to stem the tide of sleaze engulfing Westminster as her most senior Cabinet minister faces questioning over allegations made against him.
Britian’s First Secretary of State Damian Green is being interviewed today as part of a Cabinet Office investigation which has been expanded to include claims that pornography was found on one of his parliamentary computers in 2008.
Mr Green, who is effectively the British Prime Minister’s deputy, has strongly denied the claims. After a turbulent weekend for the Tories which saw four MPs referred to the party’s newly established disciplinary committee regarding allegations against them, Mrs May was attempting to get agreement on Parliament-wide anti-harassment procedures.
The PM is meeting other party leaders to try to plot a way forward after sleaze allegations began to dominate politics. Mrs May is using a speech at the CBI conference today to say: “We need to establish a new culture of respect at the centre of our public life.
“One in which everyone can feel confident that they are working in a safe and secure environment, where complaints can be brought forward without prejudice and victims know that those complaints will be investigated properly. “And where people’s careers cannot be damaged by unfounded rumours circulated anonymously online.”
The Cabinet Office inquiry into the First Secretary of State was triggered after Kate Maltby, who is three decades younger than Mr Green, claimed he “fleetingly” touched her knee during a meeting in a Waterloo pub in 2015, and a year later sent her a “suggestive” text message after she was pictured wearing a corset in the newspaper.
Mr Green said any allegation that he made sexual advances to Ms Maltby was “untrue (and) deeply hurtful”.
The inquiry was broadened after The Sunday Times reported that a statement prepared by ex-Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Bob Quick alleged “extreme porn” was discovered by officers searching Mr Green’s parliamentary office following a spate of leaks of Home Office information in 2008.
Mr Quick said that he had not disclosed the allegations to the newspaper. The First Secretary of State said: “This story is completely untrue and comes from a tainted and untrustworthy source.
“The allegations about the material and computer, now nine years old, are false, disreputable political smears from a discredited police officer. And amount to little more than an unscrupulous character assassination.” Mr Quick is also being interviewed by the Cabinet Office inquiry.
Chris Pincher became the latest Tory MP to become embroiled in controversy when he stood down from the Whips’ Office and referred himself to the party’s complaints procedure and the police following allegations over his behaviour.
The move came after the Mail on Sunday reported that Mr Pincher had been accused of making an unwanted pass at former Olympic rower and Conservative activist Alex Story. Mr Pincher told the newspaper: “If Mr Story has ever felt offended by anything I said then I can only apologise to him.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd signalled that MPs found guilty of sexual harassment could be kicked out of the Commons under a tough new crackdown. The British Home Secretary said she wanted the sanction of sacking MPs to be considered as part of a major overhaul of anti-harassment procedures at Westminster.
She told Sky News: “I think that that is one of the things that I would encourage the review to look at. It may be the case, it may not.
“It is wrong for us to have a knee-jerk reaction based on the past week. I think what we need to do is look at the whole issue. There needs to be a procedure put in place as soon as possible.”
The Home Secretary said Westminster was undergoing a “watershed moment”, and insisted the end result of the spate of claims about inappropriate behaviour that has rocked politics will be positive after a “clear out”.