The Conservative under investigation for allegedly watching pornography on his phone in the Commons chamber suggested he may have opened it accidentally as he rejected calls to stand down as an MP immediately.
Neil Parish said he would be continuing his “duties” as an MP for Tiverton and Honiton, in Devon, and as the chair of a select committee while “cooperating fully” with investigators after he had the Tory whip suspended on Friday.
The 65-year-old farmer said he would only consider his position after the conclusion of an inquiry after referring himself to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone.
But he vowed to continue serving his constituents and remain chairman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee despite calls to resign or at least stop attending the Commons while under investigation.
“I will be cooperating fully with any investigation, and whilst it is ongoing I will continue to perform my duties as MP for Tiverton and Honiton,” he wrote on his website.
Undated handout photo issued by UK Parliament of MP Neil Parish who has had the Conservative whip suspended while he is being investigated for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons chamber, a spokeswoman for the Tory Chief Whip has said. Issue date: Friday April 29, 2022. Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament
Later asked by broadcasters if he opened something in error in the Commons, he said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.”
However, there were suggestions that a Tory minister also witnessed him watching porn on a second occasion, in a committee meeting.
Mr Parish said he will consider his position as an MP after the result of the investigation, telling reporters: “I will not remain if I am found guilty.”
He said he told his wife Sue Parish on Friday afternoon, adding: “Of course it’s embarrassing and it’s embarrassing for my wife and family, so that’s my main concern at the moment.”
Ms Parish said “it was all very embarrassing” as she told The Times she defended her husband, saying: “He’s quite a normal guy, really. He’s a lovely person. It’s just so stupid.”
Allegations of a porn-watching parliamentarian were first aired by Tory MPs in a meeting with Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris on Tuesday.
Mr Heaton-Harris suspended Mr Parish, who has represented his constituency since 2010, from the parliamentary Conservative Party pending the outcome of an investigation after they talked on Friday afternoon.
Conservative former Cabinet minister Karen Bradley, who chairs the Procedure Committee, said she “would urge him not to come into Parliament” while under investigation and was clear he must quit if found guilty.
“I’m struggling to find an excuse, I’m struggling to find a reason that might mean it was acceptable but let’s let the investigation take its course,” she told Channel 4 News.
It was understood that the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which looks into claims of bullying and sexual harassment, had begun examining events after at least one witness made a referral.
A second investigation could be launched after Mr Parish’s commitment to refer himself to Ms Stone, who may consider whether Mr Parish broke the MPs’ code of conduct by causing “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the Commons.
Neil Parish spoke to GB News about allegations that a Tory MP watched porn in the House of Commons just days before he had his whip removed.
Speaking about the incident on Wednesday, Mr Parish told GB News' Darren McCaffrey: “I mean, I think the whips office will do a thoroughly investigation and we will wait and see that result, and I think from that, then the decision will have to be made, what action to be taken"
When asked if there was a problem with culture in Parliament, Mr Parish said: “I think when you've got sort of 650 members of Parliament in what is, you know, a very sort of very intense area, I mean you are going to get people that step over the line.
“I mean is it, I don't think there's necessarily a huge culture here, but I think it does have to be dealt with and dealt with seriously.
“And I think you know that's what the whips will do in our whips office.”
The pornography claims followed reports that 56 MPs, including three Cabinet ministers, are facing allegations of sexual misconduct that have been referred to the ICGS.
They also follow outrage over The Mail on Sunday publishing “sexist” and disputed claims from unnamed Tory MPs that deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner tried to distract Boris Johnson with her legs during Prime Minister’s Questions.