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Conservative MP Chris Pincher should be suspended from the House of Commons for eight weeks, according to a damning report that opens the way to a new parliamentary by-election challenge for the UK government.
Pincher, who was accused of groping two men at the private Carlton Club in Piccadilly last June, caused significant lasting damage to parliament’s’ reputation, the Commons standards committee said on Thursday.
Since the committee recommended a suspension of more than 10 days, a recall petition will be submitted in Pincher’s constituency of Tamworth in Staffordshire. If 10 per cent of constituents sign it, he will have to contest a by-election. Pincher won the seat in 2010 and gained a majority of nearly 20,000 in the 2019 general election.
The ruling will pile pressure on Rishi Sunak’s government, which is lagging behind Labour in the polls and already facing four other by-elections triggered by the resignation of Tory MPs in recent weeks, including former prime minister Boris Johnson.
The accusations against Pincher, who was deputy chief whip at the time, ultimately led Johnson to quit as premier, after he was made personally aware of previous allegations against Pincher.
Johnson was already under severe pressure from allegations that he may have misled parliament over parties held by government officials during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last month, the Commons privileges committee found that he had lied to MPs.
Two men told the standards committee that Pincher touched them inappropriately at the Carlton Club in incidents on June 29 2022 that affected their health and wellbeing.
Pincher touched the first man on his arm and neck before groping his bottom, and touched the second person on his bottom before groping his testicles, the report noted. It said such physical contact was “unwanted, upsetting and deeply inappropriate”.
The committee said Pincher had been unable to recall the events in question and that the MP had drawn attention to inconsistencies in the evidence provided by the two victims and witnesses.
He also sought to suggest that he had entered the club in a private capacity, not as an MP, but the committee found that Pincher’s attendance was “undoubtedly part of his public life”.
Pincher said in a statement: “I apologise sincerely again for my behaviour at the Carlton Club last year, as I did the day I resigned from the government.
“I have sought professional medical help, which is ongoing and has been beneficial to me, for which I am grateful.”