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Green ‘should stand down’ amid harassment claims

A senior Tory MP has suggested Damian Green should stand dow..

A senior Tory MP has suggested Damian Green should stand down from his Cabinet role while he is investigated over allegations he behaved inappropriately towards a female journalist.

Former Conservative minister Anna Soubry told Sky News it is "a matter for him" whether or not the First Secretary of State, who is effectively Theresa May's deputy, continues to serve in Government.

But the Broxtowe MP claimed outside of politics, allegations of impropriety resulting in an investigation would lead to an employee's suspension.

She said: "It is an allegation that he denies so I think it is very important that we don't have trial by media.

"In my opinion, it is actually quite a serious allegation and it is a matter for him as to whether or not he continues in his office whilst that investigation is up and running and until findings are made.

"In other organisations you would be suspended.

"Now sometimes that's actually quite unjust and people feel greatly aggrieved by that, especially when they are completely exonerated from any allegation.

"But, I think my point is this, those of us in politics, those of us who also work in Parliament, we should be subjected to exactly the same standards, practices and procedures, disciplinary-type results for all of that, as anybody else in any other organisation or business."

Video:Cabinet minister faces harassment allegations

Ms Soubry added: "Why should we be different just because we are politicians, or MPs, or members of Government or the Cabinet?

"There's a good argument our standards should be higher than what we expect from other people."

The Conservative backbencher said she would not tell the Prime Minister what to do in the face of the allegations against Mr Green, but suggested Mrs May "will be robust in this and she must be robust" as a sexual harassment scandal engulfs Westminster.

On Tuesday, the most serious claims emerged as a Labour activist revealed she was discouraged from reporting a rape allegation by a party official.

Ms Soubry said she couldn't be confident Bex Bailey would have been treated any differently had she been a Conservative aide.

"I don't think any political party has taken these things in the serious way they should have done," she said.

Bex Bailey speaking at the Labour Party conference in 2014
Video:Labour activist told 'not to report' sexual assault

Prominent Labour MP Jess Phillips said sexual harassment was "inevitable" in Westminster, telling Sky News: "It's a place where power and control play a huge role and there are hundreds if not thousands of people wanting to make their way in the world.

"That is potentially a toxic environment."

The Birmingham Yardley MP accused the PM of failing to show leadership over the scandal, as she questioned why Tory MP Stephen Crabb had not had action taken against him after he apologised for sending explicit messages to a 19-year-old woman.

Mrs Phillips also claimed those who have branded the scandal as "hysteria" or a "witch hunt" are "delegitimising" the voices of women.

The Prime Minister has referred allegations against Mr Green to the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood to "establish the facts".

The accusations, made in The Times by freelance columnist Kate Maltby, have been strongly denied by Mr Green who has instructed libel lawyers over the allegations.

He said: "It is absolutely and completely untrue that I've ever made any sexual advances on Ms Maltby."

Separately, International Trade minister Mark Garnier is being investigated over a possible breach of ministerial rules after he admitted asking a former aide to buy sex toys.

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