Rishi Sunak says allegations of rape by Tory MP are ‘very serious’ but insists party has ‘robust’ complaints processes in place after claims of cover-up lasting years
- Oliver Dowden acknowledged party may have funded treatment for victim
Rishi Sunak said allegations of rape by a Tory MP are ‘very serious’ today as he insisted the party has ‘robust’ complaints processes in place.
The PM stressed it would not be ‘right’ to comment directly on the bombshell claims that surfaced over the weekend.
But in the wake of calls for an urgent inquiry into allegations that the Conservatives sat on the sexual assault claims for years, Mr Sunak said there were robust independent complaint procedures in place’.
‘These are very serious, anonymous allegations,’ the premier said on a visit to Norfolk this morning.
‘It may be that they allude to something that is already the subject of a live police investigation, so I hope you understand it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on that further specifically.
‘More broadly the Conservative Party has robust independent complaint procedures in place, but I would say to anybody who has information or evidence about any criminal acts to of course talk to police, that’s the right course of action.’
Yesterday Deputy PM Oliver Dowden acknowledged that his party may have secretly funded medical treatment for a woman who told officials she had been raped by a Tory MP.
Mr Dowden, who served as party chairman until June last year, said: ‘It may be the case. I’m not denying that it could be the case that those payments were made, but it’s not something that I authorised.’
The devastating claims are alluded to in an explosive new book from ex-minister Nadine Dorries and were first reported by The Mail on Sunday.
The newspaper revealed yesterday that former Tory chairman Jake Berry and former chief whip Wendy Morton wrote to the police last year urging them to investigate after learning of the alleged cover-up.
Rishi Sunak, pictured on a visit to Bacton Gas Terminal in Norfolk today, has come under pressure from senior Tories to launch an urgent investigation of covered up rapes by a sitting MP
Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who was party chairman until June last year, acknowledged that the party may have secretly funded treatment for the victim
Mr Dowden said he couldn’t deny that the payments were made but insisted they were not authorised by him
The devastating claims relating to an alleged serial rapist Tory MP were revealed in Nadine Dorries’ new book
The unnamed Conservative was given the codename ‘X’ in the book, which suggested the party would be at ‘severe’ risk of prosecution if the case ended up in court
Ms Dorries’ explosive claims were first published in an exert of her book in the Mail on Sunday
Last night there was mounting pressure for an inquiry into the scandal.
Former Cabinet minister David Davis said the claims were so serious they should be investigated by the police, who are already looking into the rape allegations.
Mr Davis said there was ‘no argument in the world that can support covering up such a thing, if it’s true’.
‘Obviously, covering up a case like that is a criminal offence in its own right,’ he told GB News yesterday. ‘So it’s probably a matter for the police now.’
Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chairman, said last night: ‘These allegations are deeply concerning and extremely serious. It is of the utmost importance that this is thoroughly investigated by the Conservative Party.
‘Failure to do so would be a failure of leadership and a dereliction of duty.’
Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘These reports are deeply disturbing to read. Nobody is above the law or reprimand for serious crimes such as those reported.
‘For that reason, the Prime Minister and Conservative Party chairman must launch an investigation into this. The British public would expect something as serious as this to be investigated.’
Ms Chamberlain also called for assurances that measures have been put in place to ‘protect staff and constituents’ from the alleged offender.
Writing in The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson, which is being serialised by the Mail, Ms Dorries recounted how a Conservative colleague told her that a woman reported to party chiefs that she had been raped by an MP and ‘no action was taken by the party’.
The former culture secretary quoted her source as saying: ‘An MP gave a young female a date rape drug; the next thing she knew was she woke in a country hotel the following morning.
‘He wanted her out of the room because, he told her, he had visitors coming for breakfast.’
The woman is said to have been encouraged to go to the police but was ‘scared of him and scared of it coming out’.
In their letter to the police, Tory MPs Jake Berry and Wendy Morton said the MP may have had as many as five victims who had been ‘subject to a range of offences, including multiple rapes’.
Former Cabinet minister David Davis said the claims were so serious they should be investigated by the police, who are already looking into the rape allegations
A second complaint was made by a ‘vulnerable’ woman who was also too frightened to go to the police with her story.
When her mental health declined party lawyers are said to have organised for her to have treatment funded by the Tories.
In their letter to the police, Mr Berry and Ms Morton said the Tory MP may have had as many as five victims who had been ‘subject to a range of offences, including multiple rapes’.
They said the matter had been ‘ongoing for over two years’, adding: ‘The failure of others to act has enabled X to continue to offend and to victimise women.’
The pair also ordered an internal investigation into the ‘piecemeal’ handling of the case, which warned that the party itself could be ‘severely at risk of prosecution’.
Although officials are understood to have encouraged the women to report their claims to police, the party itself did not refer the matter to detectives until Mr Berry became involved. The MP involved cannot be named because he is now the subject of a live police investigation.
Mr Dowden had a series of bruising broadcast interviews over the handling of the issue yesterday.
He told Times Radio that he had insisted on a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to allegations of sexual misconduct during his time as party chairman. ‘It wasn’t something that crossed my desk as chairman of the Conservative Party,’ he said.
‘It may be the case. I’m not denying that it could be the case that those payments were made, but it’s not something that I authorised … as chairman of the Conservative party.
‘I want to be equally clear on my part. First of all, any allegations I received about sexual misconduct, I was always totally clear should be taken to the police.
‘And secondly, I was totally clear, both as a party and as a government, that we have zero tolerance whatsoever for this kind of conduct. Full stop.’ In a separate interview with GB News, the Deputy PM said he couldn’t say ‘for certain’ whether the party had paid for private medical treatment for an alleged victim ‘simply because I don’t know the name of the person whose fees are meant to have been paid’.
But he denied signing off any payments of this kind.
The bombshell claims were revealed in Dorries book The Plot: The Political Assassination of Boris Johnson, out on November 9
One former Cabinet minister said it was hard to believe Mr Dowden could have had no knowledge of the incident.
The source said: ‘The party was paying the medical fees of an alleged rape victim – that is basically accepting liability – but had not gone to the police. It seems incredible that the chairman of an organisation in that situation would not have known.’
An ally of Mr Dowden last night said that the structuring of the party at the time meant that he had ‘no involvement’ with the financial side.
‘He was not in charge of the party finances,’ the friend said. ‘It was one of the frustrations of his time as party chairman that there was a lot going on that he didn’t know about.’
The source said that the payment of medical fees may even have been signed off after Mr Dowden left office.
Conservative Central Office declined to comment last night.
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