Minister defends MPs employing wives amid Tory MP David Warburton allegations

The Sunday Times reported two former aides felt unable to make allegations to the MP’s office because his wife handles HR.

04 April 2022

A Cabinet minister has defended MPs employing their relatives, amid concerns former aides of Tory David Warburton felt unable to report allegations to his office because his wife handles HR.

Mr Warburton, who represents Somerton and Frome, has had the Conservative whip withdrawn after allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use emerged.

The Sunday Times, which first reported the claims, said two complainants whose allegations are being investigated by parliamentary authorities sidestepped his Commons office.

The newspaper said this move was in part due to the person responsible for handling HR complaints being his wife Harriet, whom he employs on a publicly funded salary, which could be worth up to £52,000.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, who also employs his wife, sought to allay the fresh concerns about MPs handing jobs to their relatives, saying he was a “staunch defender” of the set-up.

David Warburton
David Warburton is facing allegation of misconduct (PA)

Mr Hart told Times Radio: “I think that’s actually pretty insulting towards so many husbands wives and partners who do a really good job in Parliament, work bloody hard, and provide the taxpayer real value for money.”

He likened the situation to family businesses and added: “As far as every circumstance that I know where an MP works closely with or pays a family member, whether it’s in this Parliament or others, actually the relationship, the professional relationship, is really productive, if anything that taxpayer gets more bang for their buck than they (would) do anyway because it’s a 24/7 arrangement.

“Ever since I’ve been an MP I’ve been a staunch defender of this particular situation, I continue to be so, I think it’s a lot of nonsense to suggest that there’s something wrong with it or say it doesn’t provide value for money. I think that is demonstrably untrue.”

Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) is examining the allegations against Mr Warburton, who is said to deny any wrongdoing.

It is understood Mr Warburton has been admitted to psychiatric hospital to be treated for shock and stress.

Ms Warburton’s brother, Jonathan Baker-Bates, told the Daily Mail the couple were “absolutely… standing by each other”, saying that she believed her husband has “not done anything wrong”.

Over the weekend, an image was published showing the Tory MP sitting next to four lines of a white powder on an upturned baking tray.

The Sunday Times reported that two women had made formal complaints to the ICGS about Mr Warburton, while a third woman also detailed allegations about his conduct.

All three women accuse him of unwanted sexual comments and sexual touching, the newspaper said, and the latter also accuses the MP of having used cocaine at her home.

Mr Warburton was also alleged to have borrowed £100,000 from Russian businessman Roman Joukovski without declaring the sum.

On Monday, Government minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said he felt “sorry” on a “personal level” about Mr Warburton’s position.

The Brexit opportunities minister, whose constituency borders Mr Warburton’s Somerton and Frome seat, was asked on LBC Radio if he would offer a word of comfort to a neighbouring MP.

“I obviously feel sorry for somebody on a personal level but it’s really important that the inquiry is carried out and people feel safe working in Parliament,” the Tory MP said.

“There’s a need for personal sympathy but there is also a need for a proper process to be followed.”

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson suggested Parliament appears to have a problem with drug abuse.

The Labour MP told Times Radio: “I don’t know how rife it is. I personally have never witnessed that, but it would appear that there is a problem that it is taking place.

“I think that what troubles me the most is the ongoing issues where it comes to sexual harassment.

“I think it is vital that people who have concerns and who have complaints to make do come forward, that those complaints are taken seriously and action is taken.”

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