Words: Alastair James; pictures: Wiki
Conservative MP Rob Roberts faces suspension from parliament after it was found he had sexually harassed a male member of staff.
A former employee told BBC Wales that Robers, the MP for Delyn, in north Wales, told him to be “less alluring” and repeatedly propositioned him.
On Wednesday, (25 May) Mr Roberts had the Conservative whip removed for breaking Parliament’s policy on sexual misconduct, meaning he will sit as an independent MP in parliament, where he is also now facing a six-week suspension.
It follows previous allegations against Mr Roberts from male and female staffers.
According to BBC Wales, Mr Roberts’ former employee – who’s chosen to remain anonymous – was left “very uncomfortable” by the politician's behaviour. The former staff member then reported Mr Roberts to the Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) in June 2020.
The BBC reports that the male employee started working for Mr Roberts early last year and that the MP made his first advance 10 days later.
Recounting one experience in a car, the staffer said he was told by Mr Roberts that he found him “alluring” and that he needed to make attempts to be “less alluring” because it was “difficult” for Mr Roberts.
He then details a one-to-one meeting Mr Roberts arranged where the MP said he’d like to follow through on the advance he’d made in the car, and it would Mr Roberts “very happy” if the employee was up for it.
The staffer said that Mr Roberts became jealous if he spent time with friends and family outside of work, and the MP even arranged after-work drinks without consulting him.
In the report from the ICGS Mr Roberts said this communication “amounted to no more than an attempt to reset their professional working relationship” and “to create a relaxed atmosphere in the office and to build a friendship with a new member of staff.”
"I had very little job security”
The former employee said this was the point where he had to decide whether to quit his job saying fear over his future career within the party was a concern.
"There is a reason there are so few of these complaints that come forward - the fear people have about what's going to happen to their career”, he said to the BBC. He added, "I had very little job security and we had a pandemic around the corner."
Eventually, the former employee moved to a different job before leaving Parliament altogether.
“There is no place for the behaviour”
BBC Wales reports the former employee has welcomed a report out today from the ICGS, which was formed last year to deal with allegations of bullying and harassment.
He told the broadcaster: "I hope that the House [of Parliament] will now reflect on the findings in the report and take quick action to uphold the suspension. I am pleased that this has shown the complaints procedure does work and I hope it gives confidence to others."
The report says Mr Roberts was told of his suspension in March and had an appeal rejected in May. Part of the MP’s appeal, according to the report, included saying advances he made were ‘romantic’ and not ‘sexual’.
Posting on his website following today's report Mr Roberts said: "In the first half of 2020, I was in a particularly challenging place personally and had taken the decision to leave my marriage of 15 years and come out as being gay."
He admitted asking a male staff member out to dinner at around the same time and this was "improper". He also repeated an apology he issued at the time and said he had no further comment on the situation.
In its report today, the ICGS recognised Mr Roberts was going through “several challenges and significant changes in his personal life” when the incidents occurred, but that they did not excuse Mr Roberts’ behaviour towards his male former employee.
In a statement, the Conservative Party has apologised to the former staff member and said, "There is no place for the behaviour they were subjected to”. It accepted the recommendation that Mr Roberts be suspended for six weeks.
Last year, BBC Wales reported on allegations Mr Roberts had sent texts asking for “fun times” to a female employee and had also asked out a male employee. That led to an investigation by the Tories which “rebuked” the MP’s behaviour but kept him on as an MP.
At the time, the Delyn MP said coming out had been “challenging” and caused him “a great deal of mental stress”. In May 2020, Mr Roberts used International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia to come out as gay.