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Pressure mounts on ‘porn MP’ Neil Parish

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Senior Tory MP has said it will be “difficult” for Neil Parish to continue spending the required time in Parliament while under investigation for allegedly watching pornography in the Commons chamber.

However, Caroline Nokes, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, stopped short of calling for her Conservative colleague to immediately stand down, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think it’s right those investigations are carried out before any further action is taken.”

Asked about him continuing as the chair of the Environment, Food and Rural affairs select committee, she said: “That’s a matter for Neil to discuss with the party whips and to take a position on, but I think whilst he’s under investigation it’s going to make it very difficult for him to be in the Commons as much as he needs to be.”

Mr Parish, the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, has been suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party, pending the outcome of the investigation by Parliament’s standards commissioner Kathryn Stone. It had been brought to light after female colleagues complained after claiming to have seen him looking at adult content while sitting near them.

He said on Friday that he would wait for the full outcome of the investigation before commenting but appeared to suggest he may have opened the file by mistake.

“Of course it’s embarrassing,” he told the BBC. “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, he said: “I will await the findings of the inquiry.”

Pressed on whether he had opened something on his phone in error, Mr Parish said: “I did, but let the inquiry look at that.”

Ms Nokes also accused Tory whips of “dither and delay” in suspending Mr Parish from the parliamentary party over the pornography allegations.

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

The minister responsible for safeguarding women also rejected calls for Mr Parish to stand down immediately.

Asked if it was appropriate for him to carry on, Rachel Maclean told Times Radio: “I genuinely think that’s a matter for him, but of course there are robust processes to support constituents, any member of the public who wants to see their MP, and all of those matters are very much at the forefront of the investigation system that we have.

“Clearly if people are under investigation for certain issues it is right that that’s taken into account on how they carry out their duties.”

Asked if she was showing double standards, she said: “I want to be clear he is not continuing his business as normal, he’s under investigation, and I’m confident that the appropriate measures will be put in place to safeguard any of his constituents, particularly women and girls.”

Told Mr Parish was not denying watching pornography, she said: “That’s right, he wasn’t.”

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