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LONDON — A Conservative MP is facing a six-week suspension from the House of Commons after the standards watchdog found he committed a serious breach of sexual misconduct policy.
Rob Roberts repeatedly asked out a young male employee and told the staffer he found him “attractive” and “alluring,” a report by the U.K. Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel said.
Roberts persisted with his advances despite being refused, and his employee experienced “severe” consequences, including the loss of his chosen career, according to the report.
The MP for Delyn maintained his interest was “romantic” rather than “sexual” and launched an appeal which was rejected by the panel. The panel found his violations of the conduct code “were serious in nature and had been repeated,” and recommended a six-week suspension.
The Conservative Party removed the whip from Roberts following the findings.
The former employee who reported Roberts said in a statement: “I am very relieved that the report published today has found that Rob Roberts committed a serious and malicious breach of policies put in place to protect staff from sexual misconduct, and I welcome the recommendation by the panel that he be suspended from the service of the House.”
He added: “I hope that the House will now reflect on the findings in the report, and take quick action to uphold the suspension. I am pleased that this has shown the complaints procedure does work, and I hope it gives confidence to others to come forward.”
POLITICO reported last week that a loophole in the current system means Roberts’ suspension would not automatically trigger a petition to recall him as an MP. However, it is understood the government is considering a change to the rules. Roberts was elected to his North Wales constituency on a slim majority in 2019 and any potential by-election would be closely fought.
The verdict on Roberts’ conduct comes almost a year after he was reported under the parliamentary complaints process, and more than a month after a separate Conservative Party investigation found he acted “unacceptably” towards another former employee.
That inquiry concerned texts sent to a 21-year-old female intern inviting her to “fool around” and telling her she had “lovely legs.”
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to the individual concerned for the inappropriate and unwarranted treatment they were subjected to by someone in a position of authority. There is no place for the behaviour they were subjected to and we praise their courage in coming forward.”
It is understood that party co-chairman Amanda Milling has requested a review of his membership.
Roberts issued a statement on his website in which he apologized to colleagues, constituents and his victim. He promised to “continue to do my utmost to serve my constituency” and “work tirelessly to restore any faith which has been lost by this ruling.”
He noted that in the first half of 2020 he had been “in a particularly challenging place personally” after leaving his marriage and coming out as gay.