Deputy PM Oliver Dowden denies cover-up over MP rape allegations

The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster

Deputy PM Oliver Dowden has denied the Conservative Party covered up rape allegations against one of its MPs.

It comes after reports its former chairman Sir Jake Berry wrote to police to make them aware of the claims after leaving the post last year.

Sir Jake told them one alleged victim was receiving support paid for by the party, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Mr Dowden said he couldn't comment specifically on the story, as he did not know the unnamed MP's identity.

But the deputy PM did not "recognise in any form the idea that we covered up," he told BBC One's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

He also specifically denied any allegations had been covered up during his own time as party chairman, between September 2021 and June 2022.

Sir Jake, the MP for Rossendale and Darwen, was chairman of the Tory party during Liz Truss's 49-day premiership last year.

According to the Mail on Sunday, he became aware of a series of allegations against an MP - referred to as X - when he was appointed to the role in September 2022.

'Continue to offend'

The newspaper said that after leaving the post the following month, he wrote to police with former chief whip Wendy Morton to express his concerns about how the party had handled the claims.

According to extracts of the letter published by the newspaper, he said the matter had been going on for more than two years, adding: "The failure of others to act has enabled X to continue to offend".

A published extract reads: "There may have been five victims of X - who have been subject to a range of offences including multiple rapes."

It also claims one unnamed individual was receiving ongoing support at the expense of the Conservative Party.

Asked about the report, Mr Dowden said he could not comment on the story, because "I don't know who the individual concerned is".

He added that the Conservative Party took all allegations "exceptionally seriously" and had an independent process to investigate complaints.

Asked whether the party had covered up the claims, he replied: "I can assure you categorically it was not the case that when I was chairman of the Conservative Party, I covered up any allegations," he added.

The Conservative Party has declined to comment.

News Daily banner
News Daily banner

Sign up for our morning newsletter and get BBC News in your inbox.