Portsmouth MP Faces Suspension From Lib Dems

Portsmouth South Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock faces a disciplinary hearing today to determine whether he should lose the party whip over "very serious allegations'' of sexual assault.

Mr Hancock is being sued in a High Court civil action by a "vulnerable'' constituent, who accused him of sexual assault after she contacted him for help in a neighbour dispute.

The Portsmouth South MP, who vigorously denied the claims, was arrested by police over the allegations in 2010 but no action was taken as the Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said an internal party disciplinary hearing would take place at the earliest opportunity to establish whether Mr Hancock should have the whip withdrawn.

He said: "As leader of the party, you have got to react when allegations of this seriousness are made, you can't just sit there on your hands.''

Mr Clegg told Heart: "When I heard yesterday that court papers had been served for some very serious allegations - which I have to stress he denies completely, which when the police looked at it they didn't take further action, so I'm not prejudging that case - I immediately asked our chief whip to start disciplinary proceedings including the possibility of suspending the party whip.''

A Lib Dem spokesman said the meeting, involving Mr Clegg, Mr Hancock, deputy leader Simon Hughes and chief whip Alistair Carmichael, would take place in Westminster on Monday afternoon (3 June).

The spokesman said:

"Mike Hancock strenuously denies the accusations.

"We are not pre-judging the outcome of the case, but given the seriousness of the allegations, Nick Clegg has instructed the Chief Whip to invoke the disciplinary procedures of the party.''

Mr Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, was also the subject of controversy when his parliamentary assistant, Russian Katia Zatuliveter, was accused by the Security Service of being a spy passing information to Moscow.

However, the 26-year-old, who admitted having an affair with the MP while he sat on the Defence Select Committee, was granted leave to remain in the UK by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) in November 2011.
Mr Hancock said he was not aware of any disciplinary hearing planned for today and would not be able to attend if one was held.

He claimed the way he had been treated by the party was "all a bit odd''.

Mr Hancock, who has had health difficulties and underwent major heart surgery last year, said:

"I have medical appointments today and tomorrow, that's the biggest priority in my life at the moment.''

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