An independent panel on MPs’ conduct has recommended that Christian Matheson, a Labour parliamentarian, be suspended from the House of Commons for four weeks for “serious sexual misconduct”. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld two allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr Matheson by a former member of his staff. He has since tendered his resignation.
It is alleged that he invited her on a private trip abroad, according to the report, the invitation of which the panel said “was sexually motivated, unwanted, and had placed the complainant under pressure and intimidated her.”
During a work event outside Parliament, he also “linked arms with her; made personal comments about her appearance while looking at her suggestively; made her hold his hand as they left and insisted on accompanying her to her bus stop; and once there invited her back to his flat, kissed her twice on the forehead and attempted to kiss her on the mouth”.
The Commissioner concluded that these were “all unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances”.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Matheson admitted to a “minor breach” of the MPs’ code of conduct, but denied “several” allegations made against him.
He also apologised to the former staffer who had brought the claims “for the hurt I have caused”.
Following the recommendation from the independent panel, the Labour Party has suspended the whip from Matheson, and has asked him to stand down as MP for the City of Chester, it is understood.
A Labour spokesman said: “This is an incredibly serious case. There must be a zero tolerance for sexual harassment and the Labour party has acted immediately following the ICGS (Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme) findings.
“We will now select a candidate that the people of Chester can be proud to vote for.”
In a resignation statement posted online, Matheson said: “I have today, with great sadness, tendered my resignation as Member of Parliament for the City of Chester.
“This follows publication of a report which had found me guilty of sexual misconduct.
“From the start I accepted I had committed a minor breach of the code and had hoped that an honest and open approach would stand me in a fair light. This has proven not to be the case and I am dismayed that I have been found guilty of several allegations that I know to be untrue.”
He went on to claim: “Indeed my insistence on what I know to be true – that I had no sexual motivation in this matter – was held against me as a refusal to accept my guilt, and caused an increased sanction which I felt was disproportionate.
“Despite provable factual inaccuracies in the sanctions report, my appeal against sanction was not even considered, for the same reason.
“Therefore, I faced a suspension from the House of four weeks. Whilst I believe that this is an excessive and unfair penalty, I cannot challenge the process further. I believe that the honourable and right thing to do now is to resign my seat and seek to rebuild my life elsewhere. I would ask for privacy for my family. This matter has also caused a great toll on my health, requiring my hospitalisation, and I ask that my privacy is respected while I recover.
“I will forever be grateful to my constituency, and my party, for giving me the honour to serve, and I apologise to the people of Chester, and to the House of Commons, for the disrepute I have brought. I once again apologise to the complainant in my case, for the hurt I have caused.”
More to follow…