The Tory party chair has defended a decision not to suspend an MP accused of sexual assault and rape, arguing it is based on “independent legal advice”.
The unnamed MP was reported to the Metropolitan Police by fellow Conservatives concerned about his behaviour – but retains the whip, despite suggestions the party has been aware of the fears for two years.
Nadhim Zahawi, the party chair confirmed he had sought independent legal advice about the allegations, which he called “a very important safeguarding question”.
But he said: “It is up to the police because these allegations are third-party allegations that have been handed to the police.
“If the police decide to take action, we will take action as well,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.
Scotland Yard said last week it received allegations of “serious sexual assault” in late October and that officers are “making inquiries”.
The Times reported that Conservative whips were warned some years ago about the MP, although the claims at that time did not include rape or assault.
On Saturday, the business minister Kevin Hollinrake put pressure on his party to act if necessary, saying: “If there is evidence of offences, then they should be reported to the authorities, investigations should happen.
“If there is substance to those claims, then of course action should be taken. Processes have to be followed.”
On Times Radio, Mr Zahawi added: “That is something the police are now looking at. If there is an investigation by the police, we will obviously take action. It is right to do this properly.”
The comments came as the party chair urged nurses and ambulance drivers to drop their demands for pay rises to match soaring inflation to “send a clear message” to Vladimir Putin.
Mr Zahawi switched tack in the battle to avert pre-Christmas NHS strikes by claiming they would reveal a “divided” UK when a united front is needed over Russia’s “illegal war”.
“This is a time to come together and to send a very clear message to Mr Putin that we’re not going to be just to get divided in this way,” the Tory party chair said.
Union leaders say an improved pay offer similar to that made in Scotland could help break the deadlock, accusing the health secretary Steve Barclay of refusing to even discuss the issue.
The Royal College of Nursing is planning to strike on 15 and 20 December. Only five areas of care will be protected: chemotherapy, critical care, dialysis, paediatric intensive care and neonatal.
Mr Zahawi also said the military is being trained to drive ambulances of necessary, as well as to staff border posts in a worsening winter of discontent.