BBC News flash: Neil Parish resigns

Neil Parish MP: I’m resigning after porn ‘moment of madness’

Neil Parish has told the BBC he is resigning as an MP after admitting he watched pornography twice in the House of Commons.

Mr Parish – the MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon – said it had been a “moment of madness” and “I was not proud of what I was doing.”

He said the first time was accidental after looking at tractors, but the second time was deliberate.

He was suspended by the Conservative Party on Friday over the allegations.

Two female colleagues claimed they had seen him looking at adult content on his phone while sitting near them.

He previously told the BBC he would co-operate fully with the inquiry.

“Of course it’s embarrassing,” he said on Friday. “And it’s embarrassing for my wife and family, and so that’s my main concern at the moment. I have a very supportive wife and I thank her for that.”

Asked if it was a mistake and he had opened something on his phone in error, he said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.

“I will await the findings of the inquiry and then I will consider my position. I will not remain if I am found guilty.”

Media caption,

Tory MP Neil Parish on porn allegations: ‘Of course it’s embarrassing’

In an interview with the Times, Mr Parish’s wife, Sue Parish, said the allegation was “very embarrassing” and described her husband as “quite a normal guy” and “a lovely person”.

“If you were mad with every man who looked at pornography, you would not have many wives in the world,” she said.

She added she did not see the attraction of pornography and understood why the women who had made the allegation were upset.

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Analysis box by Nick Eardley, political correspondent

Neil Parish said last night that he would remain an MP while his conduct was investigated.

But overnight, under significant pressure, he has changed his mind.

It’s expected he will confirm his resignation from Parliament in the next few hours. That will trigger a by-election in what is a safe Tory seat.

But the bigger picture here matters too. Westminster has been rocked by allegations of a sexist culture this week. If Mr Parish had continued as an MP, he would have been plagued by questions over his conduct.

Caroline Nokes questioned this morning whether he would be able to do his job as extensively as required. Others suggested it would be impossible for him to continue to hold his influential position chairing the environment committee.

This story – and others – have damaged Parliament’s reputation. They’ve also damaged the Conservative Party. Both will be hoping that Mr Parish’s resignation will help them start to move on.

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Mr Parish is facing an investigation by Parliament’s standards commissioner. If it is found that he violated the code of conduct for MPs, possible punishments could include apologising to the Commons, or being suspended or expelled.

Other politicians have called for Mr Parish – who also chairs the environment select committee – to stand down as an MP.

And Labour has criticised the wider culture in Parliament, accusing the government of having known about the incident for days but failing to take action.

Senior Tory MP Caroline Nokes also criticised the delay by the Tory whips office to act and suspend him from the Conservative party, saying the whips office was “still too blokey”.

“I fully expected to wake up on the Wednesday morning and find that a member of Parliament had had the whip suspended,” she told the BBC on Saturday.

“And I felt that by leaving it until Friday before we knew that action had been taken by the whips, that felt like unnecessary dither and delay.”

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Who is Neil Parish?

  • The 65-year-old, an MP since 2010, was a Member of the European Parliament for South West England from 1999 to 2009
  • He left school at 16 to manage his family’s farm and, in 2000, was an election monitor during Zimbabwe’s parliamentary election
  • He opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum and voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage by David Cameron’s government
  • Mr Parish is married and has two children and two grandchildren
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On Wednesday, it emerged that a female minister had reported a male colleague for viewing pornographic material while sitting beside her in the Commons chamber. The female minister said she had also seen the MP watching pornography during a hearing of a select committee, The Times reported.

A second female Tory MP said she had tried but been unable to capture video proof of him doing so.

The allegations were subsequently revealed to have been made about Mr Parish.

The government’s safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean denied that the Conservative Party was institutionally sexist, saying: “I think there is clearly a problem in the House of Commons. And I think it extends to all parties actually.”

And asked about the delay to Mr Parish being suspended, she said: “There clearly needed to be some time to establish the veracity of what was said, the facts of the case. Where we’ve got to now is the right place we need to be, which is there is the investigation happening, the chief whip has taken the action he’s taken.”