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Former Conservative Whip Accused of Groping Fails to Overturn Commons Suspension on Appeal

A former Tory whip accused of drunkenly groping two men has lost his appeal against an eight-week suspension from the House of Commons.

Chris Pincher, an MP for Tamworth, had lodged an appeal against the “disproportionate” Commons Standards Committee sanction in July.

However, Parliament’s watchdog, the Independent Expert Panel (IEP), on Monday dismissed his appeal and upheld the committee’s recommendations.

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His suspension exceeds the ten-day threshold that would trigger a recall petition in his Tamworth seat if MPs approve it.

This could pave the way for a by-election if more than 10 percent of constituents sign it.

The Standards Committee recommended the lengthy suspension for Mr. Pincher after it found the MP’s conduct last summer was “profoundly damaging” and amounted to an abuse of power.

His actions were described as “unwanted, inappropriate and upsetting”, in what amounted to an “egregious case of sexual misconduct.”

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the row over his former chief whip was one that blighted the final weeks of his premiership, triggering his resignation last year after an exodus of ministers from his administration.

Misconceived Argument

An inquiry was launched into the behaviour of the MP last year following an incident at the private members’ Carlton Club in central London.

Parliament’s standards commissioner Daniel Greenberg found that Mr. Pincher groped a then-employee of the House of Lords on his arm and neck, before groping his bottom.

Mr. Greenberg also found that he had groped a civil servant twice in a separate incident.

The committee’s report stated that Mr Pincher told the commissioner that he was unable to recall the events in question.

It added: “In his written submission to us, Mr Pincher also apologised to the parties involved: ‘I’m conscious of the effect the evening and the coverage must have had on all the parties involved, as well as on my own family.

“I’m very sorry and apologise to them all, as I did the day I resigned from the Government.’”

Delivering its ruling in a report (pdf) released on Monday, the IEP said: “We consider that the appellant’s arguments are misconceived or erroneous. The sanction is far from being arbitrary or disproportionate.”

Mr. Pincher did not appeal against the Standards Committee’s conclusion that he had broken the MPs’ code of conduct by behaving in a way that would cause “significant damage to the reputation and integrity” of the Commons.

But he argued in his appeal submission that his behaviour had not damaged Parliament’s reputation as he had spoken at the private members club as a minister rather than as an MP.

He resigned as a government whip after the incident and subsequently lost the Tory whip, meaning he now sits in the Commons as an independent.

He has already indicated he will not seek re-election, and could choose to stand down as an MP following the appeal decision, which would automatically trigger a contest in his Staffordshire constituency.

Boris Johnson was facing questions about Chris Pincher (John Sibley/PA)
Boris Johnson was facing questions about Chris Pincher (John Sibley/PA)

Double By-election

Downing Street refused to be drawn on whether Mr. Pincher should quit the Commons and said it was a matter for him.

A spokesman added: “The prime minister is clear about the importance of integrity, professionalism and accountability. Those are the core values of the Government and supports the work of the committee in ensuring that those standards are met.”

His suspension could leave Prime Minister Rishi Sunak facing a tricky double by-election as the Conservatives languish in the national polls.

Former Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries’s bitter exit last week means one is set to take place this autumn in her Mid Bedfordshire seat.

Mr. Pincher has been comfortably voted for by Tamworth residents since 2010 where he won a 19,634 vote majority at the last general election.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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