A Labour MP has read out explicit text messages that a Tory MP sent to female constituents in the House of Commons chamber, after he was controversially allowed back into the party on the day of Theresa May's confidence vote.
Andrew Griffiths, the prime minister’s former chief of staff and the MP for Burton and Uttoxeter, was suspended in July after it was revealed that he had sent thousands of sexually explicit text messages to two constituents.
On Wednesday the Conservative whip was reinstated to both Griffiths and his colleague Charlie Elphicke, who was suspended last November over allegations of sexual offences, enabling them to take part in the confidence vote.
"She's so cute, so sweet, I can't wait to beat her. Can she take a beating?" Jess Phillips, the Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said in the House of Commons, during Business Questions to the leader of the House. She added: "Not my words, Mr Speaker, the words of the MP for Burton, while barraging two of his female constituents with thousands of text messages.
"Last night the leader of the House's party gave him and the MP for Dover the whip back without any due process. What message does this send about how any process here in this place can ever be trusted?"
She went on: "What matters more? Political power or protecting victims of sexual harassment and abuse?"
In response, the leader of the House, Andrea Leadsom, said she had not been involved in the decision to readmit the two MPs, which was made by Conservative party whips, but said she was determined to bring about change in Westminster.
"I am absolutely committed to changing the culture of this place and to seeing that everybody here is treated with dignity and respect," Leadsom said.
She added that "the independent complaints procedure, which is not involved with any party political processes whatsoever," was designed to "enable everybody who works or visits this place to be able to take any complaints that they have to an independent place for proper investigation and proper sanction to be applied."
Another Labour MP, Louise Haigh, asked a question on a similar topic, but also questioned Leadsom on appointments to committees, after Phillips was reportedly blocked from joining parliament's standards and privileges committee after Labour withdrew its support for her candidacy.
"I'm afraid the leader's party yesterday lost any ounce of credibility in leading the investigations into sexual harassment and bullying in this place when they restored the whips to the members for Dover and Burton, and I'm afraid it is thoroughly implausible that it just so happened that their investigations concluded yesterday," Haigh said.
"How can we be assured that party politics are taken out of investigations into such allegations and out of crucial appointments to committees governing standards and privileges in this house?"
In response, Leadsom said the system was working with a "steady stream of complaints being brought forward" and a "small number of ongoing complaints".