The Government’s Chief Whip was on Sunday night accused of failing to act for four months on complaints against a former minister who was arrested for a suspected rape at the weekend.
Mark Spencer was under mounting pressure to explain why he failed to launch an investigation into the alleged behaviour of the senior Conservative, who has not been suspended by the party despite the seriousness of the allegations.
The MP, who has not been publicly named, was arrested on Saturday after a woman in her 20s made a complaint of rape and sexual assault, before being bailed later that evening until a date in mid-August.
The Telegraph has established that the woman – who was working as a parliamentary aide – made a complaint to Mr Spencer on April 1, but says she became frustrated when nothing was done and sought a second meeting with him, which she says he declined.
She also alleges that she told Mr Spencer – the man in charge of party discipline – that the MP issued threats against her if she spoke to anybody, but that Mr Spencer simply reassured her that the MP in question would not carry out his threat.
Mr Spencer has insisted that anyone who makes allegations of harassment or abuse is “strongly encouraged” by him to report the matter to “the appropriate authorities” and disputes elements of the woman’s version of her contact with him.
Mr Spencer denies that the woman made any allegations of a sexual nature in his conversation with her.
However, his lack of action has angered some female MPs in his own party, who have questioned why he failed to investigate, why he did not advise the woman to contact the police, and why he has not removed the whip from the MP.
A former minister told The Telegraph: “I’m surprised the whip hasn’t been removed considering what happened to Charlie Elphicke. I think the chief has a lot to answer for.”
A second former Tory minister said: “It’s just hugely disappointing to yet again find these allegations. It’s a young woman who should not have ever been put in that position and should have clear mechanisms by which to address the allegations.”
The news has sent shockwaves through the Conservative Party and comes just days after Charlie Elphicke, a former Tory whip, was found guilty of sexually assaulting two women in 2007 and 2016.
Last month the Conservative Party was criticised for not withdrawing the whip from Rob Roberts, MP for Delyn, after he sent inappropriate messages to two junior members of staff. Mr Roberts has apologised and the party is investigating.
In contrast Julian Lewis had the whip withdrawn for standing for the post of chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, disobeying party orders to vote for former minister Chris Grayling.
Allegations concerning the MP arrested on Saturday first began to reach the ears of fellow MPs in February, the month after the most recent of the alleged sexual assaults.
Asked if Boris Johnson retained confidence in Mr Spencer, Downing Street said the Prime Minister had “confidence in his entire Cabinet” but refused to answer questions about when Mr Johnson first became aware of the allegations.
On Sunday, Scotland Yard confirmed that it had received allegations relating to four separate incidents involving allegations of sexual offences and assault, alleged to have occurred at addresses in Westminster, Lambeth and Hackney between July 2019 and January 2020. The alleged victim has claimed one of the alleged assaults left her needing hospital treatment.
The Telegraph has established that Mr Spencer spoke to the complainant on April 1, when the woman in question says she told him about “sexual abuse” she said she had suffered at the hands of the MP. She also claims to have told Mr Spencer the MP had made further threats against her if she spoke to anyone about it.
In an anonymous newspaper interview last month, the woman claimed Mr Spencer “didn’t seem interested in the details of the allegations but spent most of the time saying I shouldn’t worry about the threats.”
She added that his response appeared to be: “Well don’t worry, because the MP won’t actually carry out those threats.”
She added: “He never suggested I should go to the police. In fact I asked him when he would withdraw the whip, he first said when he had a police report, then changed it to a charge, then he said ultimately he’d need a conviction.
“I felt like he did not take me seriously or recognise the severity of what had happened.”
Allies of Mr Spencer say the woman did not want the MP concerned to be made aware of her complaint as she was concerned about not being given a reference by the person that she was working for at the time.
The woman says Mr Spencer did not advise her to contact the police, which he does not dispute.
Mr Spencer has told friends the woman said she intended to take the matter to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
Multiple sources have told The Telegraph that the woman attempted to speak to Mr Spencer a second time, but was instead contacted by his special adviser, who directed her towards the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.
Increasingly frustrated with his approach, she contacted a backbench Conservative MP in late June, who raised her complaint with Jacob Rees-Mogg, the House of Commons leader, in mid-July.
Mr Rees-Mogg is understood to have advised that the woman report the allegations to the police. He also notified the Whips’ Office of the complaint.
Mr Rees-Mogg had also been told about the allegations by a friend of the woman during a meeting to discuss Parliamentary grievance procedures on June 22, though he was not at that point told the identity of the MP. Again, he said the matter should be referred to the police.
A Government source said on Sunday night that Mr Rees-Mogg found the allegations “extremely distressing” and later contacted the Government Whips’ Office to notify them of the complaint. He was unavailable for comment.
When an interview with the woman appeared in The Times on July 27, friends of Mr Spencer told the newspaper she had not mentioned the allegations of sexual assault.
She reacted angrily to the suggestion, telling friends at the time that she had reported allegations of “sexual abuse” to him.
Four days later, she reported the allegations to the police.
She is also said to be angered at the decision not to suspend the whip from the MP, after a party spokesman stated yesterday that the matter would be reviewed once the police investigation has concluded.
The concerns raised by senior female Tory MPs about the Chief Whip’s decision not to suspend the whip from their colleague were echoed by Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow safeguarding minister, who said the refusal not to take action pending the police investigation was “shocking.”
Labour’s Ms Phillips added: “This is an appalling decision that sends a message that the Conservative Party do not take either their safeguarding responsibility or people who come forward seriously. I hope that decent Tories privately contact Number 10 and their whips and express their disgust.”
A spokesman for the Conservative Party said: “These are serious allegations and it is right that they are investigated fully. The Whip has not been suspended. This decision will be reviewed once the police investigation has been concluded.”
Party sources said the decision not to suspend the whip was taken for fear that the MP could then be identified before the allegations had been assessed by the police.
Approached for comment last night, a spokesman for Mr Spencer said: “The Chief Whip takes all allegations of harassment and abuse extremely seriously and has strongly encouraged anybody who has approached him to contact the appropriate authorities, including Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which can formally carry out independent and confidential investigations.
“As this matter is now in the hands of the police it would be inappropriate to comment further.”