09 February 2022

Spencer has to ‘keep my mouth shut’ while Islamophobia investigation continues

09 February 2022

Commons Leader Mark Spencer said it was “a bit rough” that he has been unable to defend himself publicly against accusations of Islamophobia.

Mr Spencer was moved from chief whip to his new post in Boris Johnson’s minor reshuffle but his continued role in Government raised eyebrows as he continues to be investigated over his role in MP Nusrat Ghani’s allegations of Islamophobia.

The Prime Minister commissioned an investigation to “establish the facts” regarding the Tory MP’s claim that she was told by a whip her dismissal as a minister in 2020 was partly because of concerns about her “Muslimness”.

Mr Spencer identified himself as the whip but denied her accusation.

Sherwood MP Mr Spencer told BBC Radio Nottingham he had to stay quiet while the investigation – being carried out by Lord Geidt, the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests – was conducted.

He said: “That investigation is ongoing… we wait for the results of that.

“If I’m honest with you… that is a bit rough, when you’re accused of something of that nature. It’s a bit rough not being able to defend yourself until the results of that investigation come forward.

“I’ve just got to keep my mouth shut, present the facts to Lord Geidt who’s doing the investigation, and then once that’s concluded, I think we’ll be able to have a fairly open conversation about that.”

Downing Street said it was important to let the investigation run its course.

The Prime Minister’s press secretary said: “The Prime Minister has been very clear that there is no place within our society for anti-Muslim hatred, racism or discrimination of any kind.

“He asked for an investigation to establish the facts of what happened in this particular case.”

She added that “it’s important that we let that investigation run to establish the facts”.

Ms Ghani has yet to respond to Mr Spencer’s new role.

A spokesman for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his deputy, Angela Rayner, had written a letter to the Government setting out concerns about the decision to give Mr Spencer a new ministerial job while a probe into his conduct is under way.

The party spokesman told reporters: “Clearly we are concerned at the way in which the Ghani inquiry was supposed to be a serious investigation into the culture within Government, and we would hope that that investigation will deliver on its objectives – notwithstanding the fact that one of the people being investigated seems to have been promoted while it is going on.”

Asked about Lord Geidt’s involvement, Sir Keir’s spokesman said it was a “good thing” if the allegations were being looked at in view of the ministerial code.

But he said there were long-held fears about the “lack of genuine independence” of Mr Johnson’s ethics adviser, given “all roads lead back to the Prime Minister”.

“While we welcome the investigation, as ever we have serious concerns as to what information will actually make the light of day,” he said.

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