The British Labour Party has suspended a parliamentarian and a former minister over accusations of sexual harassment, further deepening the Westminster sex abuse scandal.
The party made the decision about Ivan Lewis on Thursday and launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the MP.
Lewis has been accused by a woman of repeatedly touching her leg at a Labour Party fundraising event and inviting her back to his house in 2010, when she was just 19 years old.
“The Labour Party takes all allegations of sexual harassment extremely seriously. Ivan Lewis is currently suspended from the Labour party pending an investigation,” a party spokesperson said.
Five other women have also reportedly come forward to make claims against the veteran MP, who has previously apologized for his past conduct towards women.
Lewis, who served as International Development Minister under former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, last month denied the 2010 allegation but accepted his behavior to female colleagues in the past had been “unwelcome.”
In a statement issued through his lawyers, Lewis said he had “never made non-consensual sexual comments or sexual advances to women”.
“However, I understand that a few women have claimed that my behavior made them feel uncomfortable. I have on occasion asked women I work with out for drinks or dinner, or developed strong feelings for them, and I am genuinely sorry if this was unwelcome or inappropriate in the circumstances, and caused anyone to feel awkward.”
In response to his suspension, Lewis denied the accusations of sexual harassment, saying “I am deeply saddened to hear of my suspension … I strongly dispute the allegations.”
Women in the US and UK have recently been coming forward to share encounters of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace, including in the media and entertainment industries and the realm of politics.
An avalanche of sexual misconduct allegations have been made in recent weeks against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The scandal has rippled in a wide range of industries.
UK police investigating Weinstein are now looking at sexual assault allegations from seven women. The incidents allegedly took place between the 1980s and 2015 both in London as well as outside of Britain.
The UK has been struggling to deal with a series of sexual abuse scandals that have raised doubts about how institutions, including the church, sports teams and the news media respond to those who are vulnerable to abuse.
A vast inquiry has been opened into child sexual abuse at a string of British institutions from parliament to the BBC, children’s homes to churches.