Labour has suspended the former minister Ivan Lewis over allegations of sexual harassment.
The party’s decision means the MP for Bury South, who was placed under investigation last week, will sit as an independent MP in the House of Commons.
A spokesperson for Labour said: “The Labour party takes all allegations of sexual harassment extremely seriously. Ivan Lewis is currently suspended from the Labour party pending an investigation.”
Lewis has denied the allegations of sexual harassment after one woman told BuzzFeed that he touched her leg and invited her to his house during a Labour party event in 2010 when she was 19.
A statement issued through his lawyers at the time said Lewis had “never made non-consensual sexual comments or sexual advances to women”.
It added: “However, I understand that a few women have claimed that my behaviour made them feel uncomfortable. I have on occasion asked women I work with out for drinks or dinner, or developed strong feelings for them, and I am genuinely sorry if this was unwelcome or inappropriate in the circumstances, and caused anyone to feel awkward.”
In response to his suspension, Lewis said on Thursday that he was “deeply saddened” to hear of his suspension pending investigation, adding: “I strongly dispute the allegations and intend to cooperate fully with the Labour party’s investigation.”When Lewis was a minister in the last Labour government, he apologised for sending unwanted phone messages to a young female civil servant in his private office.
A string of MPs have now been suspended or placed under investigation over accusations of sexual harassment since women and men were prompted to speak out in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Over the past month, allegations about sexual misconduct in politics have led to the resignation of Michael Fallon as defence secretary, investigations into two senior ministers, Damian Green and Mark Garnier, and the suspension of the whip from Conservative backbencher Charlie Elphicke. Tory MPs Dan Poulter, Daniel Kawczynski, Stephen Crabb and Chris Pincher have been referred to their party’s internal disciplinary procedures.
Labour has suspended two other MPs, Kelvin Hopkins and Jared O’Mara, while another, Clive Lewis, is under investigation.
Greg Hands, a Conservative government minister, appeared to accuse Labour of double standards in suspending Lewis over sexual harassment allegations but not another MP, Emma Dent Coad, who apologised for remarks about a black London assembly member.
In a controversial tweet that appeared to link Lewis’s suspension to his politics and religion, Hands said: “Tough action from Labour leadership against Jewish Blairite Ivan Lewis – but just ‘a chat’ for hate-filled ‘Ghetto Boy’ rhetoric of Kensington Corbynista Emma Dent Coad.”
A Labour source said: “Greg Hands knows nothing about either case and should be ashamed of his innuendo.” Hands later deleted his tweet and said it was “carelessly worded” and “not meant to cause offence”.