MPs are expected to vote on whether to approve a six-week suspension for Peter Bone later today, after he was found to have committed acts of bullying and sexual misconduct against a member of staff.
A report by parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) outlined a number of incidents between 2012 and 2013, including the former minister having “trapped” a male employee in a room before exposing himself – in what was described as a “deliberate and conscious abuse of power”.
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Mr Bone – who was kicked out of the Conservative Party in parliament following the report – continues to deny the allegations, calling them “false and untrue claims” that are “without foundation”.
However, if MPs approve the sanction, as recommended by the panel, the 71-year-old will face a recall petition in his Wellingborough constituency.
And if that is signed by 10% of the local electorate, it will trigger a by-election for his seat, leading to another polling battle for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his party.
Mr Bone’s former member of staff made five allegations to parliament’s watchdog in October 2021 after an initial complaint made to the then prime minister, Theresa May, went unresolved in 2017.
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The complaints included four allegations of bullying. The IEP’s report details how Mr Bone “verbally belittled, ridiculed, abused and humiliated” his employee and “repeatedly physically struck and threw things” at him.
Mr Bone also imposed an “unwanted and humiliating ritual” on him by forcing him to sit with his hands in his lap when he was unhappy with his work, the report added.
It also said the MP ostracised his staff member following an incident on a work trip to Madrid.
The complainant also alleged Mr Bone had “repeatedly pressurised” the member of staff to give him a massage in the office and, on a visit to Madrid with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking, indecently exposed himself to the complainant in the bathroom and bedroom of the hotel room they were sharing.
The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner upheld all four allegations of bullying and the allegation of sexual misconduct relating to the incident in Spain – though he found the demands for massages were bullying, rather than sexual misconduct.
Mr Bone appealed against the decision, saying the complainant had not raised the issues during their employment, and he also claimed the investigation was “procedurally unfair”.
But the panel upheld the complaints and recommended the six-week sanction to MPs.
The Liberal Democrats have called on Mr Sunak to vote for the suspension, saying it would be a “disgrace” if he “ducked out”.
The party’s chief whip, Wendy Chamberlain, added: “One year ago Sunak stood on the steps of Downing Street and promised to govern with integrity. That promise has now been left in tatters, as Conservative MPs continue to act like the rules don’t apply to them.
“Time and again, Rishi Sunak has shown he is too weak to stand up to the endless chaos and rule-breaking in the Conservative Party.”