Clegg Defends Action Over Portsmouth MP Hancock
24 January 2014, 13:50
Nick Clegg has insisted he took immediate action after learning of "appalling'' sexual allegations against Portsmouth MP Mike Hancock.
The Liberal Democrat leader defended his handling of the situation amid claims that nothing was done for three years after the party was notified of the complaints.
The Portsmouth South MP was suspended from the party this week after the leaking of a QC's report into allegations - which he denies - of inappropriate behaviour towards a constituent with mental health issues.
Mr Hancock had already resigned the parliamentary party whip last year, but was still sitting as a Lib Dem local councillor.
Mr Clegg, who is also facing criticism over the handling of separate sexual harassment allegations against Lord Rennard, said he had acted last year as soon as he heard that a civil case was being brought against his MP.
"When I was given the specific allegations at the beginning of last year I immediately asked our chief whip to investigate,'' he said.
"As a result Mike Hancock ceased to be a Lib Dem MP.
"When those allegations were then supported by the QC's report that has come to light this week again we acted immediately and Mike Hancock has been suspended from the Lib Dems altogether.''
The Deputy Prime Minister added:
"The first time I was given specific allegations was when there was a notification of legal proceedings, which I was informed of at the beginning of last year.
"You can only react to things that are put to you.
"That is when I acted. I acted immediately because I was as appalled as anyone by the seriousness of these allegations.''
Meanwhile, Mike Hancock's son has been charged with assault causing actual bodily harm following an incident involving a photographer.
Dean Hancock, 37, was released on bail and will appear at Fareham Magistrates Court on 12 February 2014.
A Hampshire Constabulary spokesman said:
"We can confirm 37-year-old Dean Hancock from Rockingham Way, Fareham, Hampshire was charged tonight (Thursday 23 January 2014) with assault causing actual bodily harm (ABH).
"Mr Hancock was bailed until 12 February 2014 when he is due to appear at Fareham Magistrates Court."