Delyn MP Rob Roberts faces six week suspension over 'repeated sexual advances' towards staff member
A Conservative MP faces a six week suspension for a "significant" breach of Parliament's sexual misconduct policy.
Rob Roberts, the member of parliament for Delyn was alleged to have made "repeated and unwanted sexual advances" towards one member of staff, in the report by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP).
The report also said Mr Roberts had made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature and was overly intrusive about the man's personal life.
In a series of messages shown to BBC Wales last July, the married MP told a male junior member of staff "that I liked him and asked him to dinner."
The messages reveal the worker moved positions because of this.
The panel found Mr Roberts should be suspended for a period of six weeks, but the suspension can only be imposed by a motion in the House of Commons.
Sir Stephen Irwin, Chair of the IEP said, “The misconduct demonstrated here was significant. It is evident that Mr Roberts MP was in a very powerful position as an employer in relation to the reporter.
"Our conclusion is that the determination of six weeks suspension from the service of the House was proper and proportionate.”
Responding to the panel, Mr Roberts said last year, he had been in a "challenging place personally," having ended his marriage of 15 years and also coming out as gay.
He said: "I asked a male member of Parliamentary staff to dinner in the hope of striking up a personal relationship.
"I recognise that this breach of trust in the MP-Staff relationship was completely improper and should not have happened.
"I apologised at the time and do so again to the complainant but also to my colleagues, family and most importantly my constituents."
He said that he will "continue do his utmost to serve his constituency."
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to the individual concerned for the inappropriate and unwarranted treatment they were subjected to by someone in a position of authority.
“There is no place for the behaviour they were subjected to, and we praise their courage in coming forward.
“In light of the outcome of the Standards investigation, Rob Roberts MP has had the Conservative Party Whip suspended."
Analysis by Political Editor Adrian Masters
What happens next could significantly affect the MP's future.Rob Roberts has had the Conservative whip removed, in other words, he's been suspended from the party's group in the Commons.But he could also face a vote which could cost him his Delyn seat. It's not straightforward how that would happen, which is proving controversial in itself.The recommendation comes from the relatively new Independent Expert Panel (IEP) which was set up in 2020 to look at complaints of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct. No MPs take part in the panel or its decisions.However MPs do have the final say in a motion in the House of Commons over whether or not the recommended punishment is imposed. It's highly unlikely there will be a vote so the six-week suspension is almost certain to go ahead. If the proposed punishment had come from the cross-party Standards Committee, it would have automatically let to what's known as a recall petition, which is where people living in the MP's constituency get the chance to say if he should face a by-election.However sanctions from the IEP don't automatically lead to a recall petition, although one could still be triggered if he were to be suspended for 10 sitting days or more (which is what the IEP is recommending.)Once a recall petition begins, constituents have six weeks to have their say. If enough signatures are collected a by-election is held.In 2019, the then Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, Chris Davies, lost his seat in a by-election triggered by a recall petition which followed a conviction over expenses claims.The Labour party's chair, Anneliese Dodds says that if Mr Roberts won't resign, there should be a recall petition even if that involves changing the law.“The report fully upholds the sexual harassment allegations made against Rob Roberts MP. He should therefore resign his seat with immediate effect.“That such serious and proven abuse doesn’t automatically result in the recall of a sitting Member of Parliament is both absurd and unjust. The Conservative Government cannot dance around gaps in legislation if it is serious about upholding standards in public life.“That is why we expect the Government to take immediate action – Labour will support efforts to pass emergency legislation or measures to rectify this situation.”
Whatever the next steps are procedurally, politically things look likely to become very difficult for Rob Roberts.
The official statement says that he has had the whip suspended, in other words, not allowed to sit as a Conservative MP temporarily. However I understand that the move is considered to be far more permanent and would normally be referred to in the formal jargo as 'having the whip removed.'
Either way it appears those in charge of the party are taking the situation very seriously indeed. Privately they're distancing themselves from an earlier disciplinary decision, saying that that investigation was based on a complaint about actions on social media, not the allegations at the centre of this report.
Furthermore it's understood that the Conservative party's co-chairman has asked for his membership to be reviewed.
Other MPs are said to be looking at ways of working around the Commons rules to ensure a recall petition is triggered.