image captionRob Roberts took a “red wall” seat from Labour at the 2019 general election
Conservative MP Rob Roberts faces being suspended from Parliament for six weeks after an independent panel found he sexually harassed a member of his staff.
He won one of six seats the party took from Labour in Wales at the general election 17 months ago.
So who is he, what has he done and what happens next?
Who is Rob Roberts?
Rob Roberts is the Conservative MP for Delyn, one of the so-called “red wall” of Labour seats in north Wales the Tories won at the December 2019 general election.
His majority is 865.
He previously worked in financial services.
Why does he face being suspended from Parliament?
A new independent panel, set up to judge cases of sexual harassment and bullying against MPs, found Mr Roberts sexually harassed a member of his staff, breaching Parliament’s sexual misconduct policy.
What does the panel say the MP did?
The panel said he committed a “serious and persistent breach of the sexual misconduct policy”.
Its report said the MP had taken “positive steps” to improve his behaviour, but had “demonstrated limited insight into the nature of his misconduct”.
“We remain concerned that he does not yet fully understand the significance of his behaviour or the full nature and extent of his wrongdoing,” the report said.
The panel recognised Mr Roberts – who had come out as gay after 15 years of marriage – had been “going through several challenges and significant changes in his personal life” but said these “do not excuse his sexual misconduct”.
image captionMPs are expected to vote on whether to suspend Rob Roberts in the coming days
When did the former staff member make the complaint?
Mr Roberts’s former employee told BBC Wales he had been left “uncomfortable,” “shocked” and “horrified” by the MP’s behaviour.
In June 2020, the ex-staff member decided to report the MP to Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme for sexual misconduct, and the case was later referred to the Independent Expert Panel.
It became one of the first cases to be judged by the panel, appointed last November to look at bullying and harassment cases.
How did the behaviour begin?
The complainant started working for the newly-elected Mr Roberts in early 2020, and said the MP made his “first advance” ten days later.
The staff member, who wishes to remain anonymous, told BBC Wales they were alone in a car together on a constituency visit when Mr Roberts said: “I find you very attractive and alluring and I need you to make attempts to be less alluring in the office because it’s becoming very difficult for me.”
The staffer says he found the comment “very uncomfortable” but “brushed it off” because the MP was “apologetic”.
That weekend, he says Mr Roberts had dinner with his friend and “used it to ask permission to ask me out, or make a further advance”.
Despite the friend “heavily discouraging him from doing so”, the staffer said the next morning he looked in his work diary to see a “one-to-one booked with Rob”.
In the one-to-one meeting, Mr Roberts told his staffer the advance he had made in the car was “something I would like to pursue, and if you would like to pursue that too it would make me very happy”.
The staffer told BBC Wales: “I felt incredibly uncomfortable, shocked, pretty horrified.
“I tried to be very nice and said ‘I really like you as a boss, but I think it’s best our relationship stays professional’.”
What happened in the following days?
The former staff member says that Mr Roberts then exhibited “jealous behaviour”.
“When I was having lunch with people he’d ask who they were, were they a boy or a girl?
“I’d arrange to have drinks with friends in the evening or dinner with my sister and he’d say ‘why are you going for drinks with them and not me?'”
The employee says Mr Roberts had also made inappropriate remarks referring to the employee’s sexuality.
After Mr Roberts invited him for drinks, and he said he was busy, the staffer says the MP then “booked drinks in the diary for the following Tuesday, outside of my hours, without giving me any go-ahead”.
“That was the point I thought: ‘I just can’t come into work anymore.’ Because it’s not really appropriate behaviour, deliberately forcing me to spend time with him around him and alcohol.”
image captionA former employee of Rob Roberts says the Delyn MP repeatedly propositioned him
How did this affect the complainant?
Mr Roberts’s former staffer told BBC Wales he was “in a constant haze”.
“I had to find excuses just to get out of the room. I was constantly uncomfortable.”
He said he had to decide “whether or not I was going to have to quit my job” and had a lot of “very difficult decisions to make” when he raised what was happening with the party whips.
“You’re labelling yourself often in many ways as a ‘troublemaker’ with the party higher-ups and you don’t know how the party is going to react.
“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.
The staff member ended up moving to a different role in Parliament, and has now left the organisation completely.
How has the Conservative Party responded to the panel’s findings?
A spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to the individual concerned for the inappropriate and unwarranted treatment they were subjected to by someone in a position of authority.
“There is no place for the behaviour they were subjected to and we praise their courage in coming forward.
“In light of the outcome of the Standards investigation Rob Roberts MP has had the Conservative Party Whip suspended.”
That means Mr Roberts now sits in the House of Commons as an independent member, rather than an Tory MP.
What has the MP said?
Rob Roberts issued a statement on Tuesday saying: “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.
“At around the same time, I asked a male member of Parliamentary staff to dinner in the hope of striking up a personal relationship.
“I recognise that this breach of trust in the MP-staff relationship was completely improper and should not have happened.
“I apologised at the time and do so again to the complainant but also to my colleagues, family and most importantly my constituents.
“I will continue to do my utmost to serve my constituency as I have over the past 18 months since my election, and this judgement will not alter my resolve to ensure that the people of Delyn get the assistance they need with pressing local issues.
“It is the greatest honour of my life to represent the constituency in which I grew up and have lived my whole life, and I will work tirelessly to restore any faith which has been lost by this ruling.”
What other allegations have been made about Rob Roberts in the past?
In July 2020, messages seen by BBC Wales showed Mr Roberts inviting a 21-year-old female intern who was working in Parliament to “fool around” with him in April.
The MP also repeatedly propositioned her after she told him she was struggling with her mental health.
The female intern told BBC Wales the messages had made her feel “really vulnerable”.
image captionAn excerpt of messages sent by the MP to the intern on 12 April
The Conservative Party launched its own investigation, but said it did not contact either staff member because complaints were made by third-party complainants and had not come directly from the individuals involved.
Earlier this year the party closed the investigation saying it had “strongly rebuked” Mr Roberts for his “unacceptable” conduct, but that he would remain a Conservative MP.
Back to today, what happens next?
MPs are expected to vote on Thursday on whether to back the panel’s recommendation that Mr Roberts should be suspended from the House of Commons for six weeks.
The UK government is also considering plugging a legal loophole so that MPs suspended for sexual misconduct could in future face a recall petition too.
That can lead to a by-election if the petition gains enough signatures.
As things stand the process for handling such complaints does not include the power to trigger a recall petition, unlike cases considered by the House of Commons Committee on Standards.
UK government Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said it is a decision for MPs but he felt “this loophole does need to be closed”.
Chair of the Commons Committee on Standards, Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, has called the current situation “manifestly unfair”.
Asked about the matter at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said having the party whip withdrawn had been “condign”, or appropriate punishment in this instance.