Chief whip Mark Spencer today stood by his decision not to suspend the senior Tory MP arrested on suspicion of rape.
The party is under mounting pressure, including from the alleged victim, to strip the ex-minister of the Conservative whip.
But Mr Spencer said it was right to allow the police to conclude their investigation before taking any action, while also stressing the need to protect the identity of the accuser.
The former parliamentary researcher in her 20s has alleged she was assaulted and forced to have sex.
She claims that she was left so traumatised by their relationship last year that she ended up in hospital.
Defending his handling of the case, Mr Spencer today said: ‘They are very serious allegations and we do take those allegations very seriously.
‘I think it is down to the police to do that thorough investigation, not for the Whips Office to investigate this alleged crime, it is for the police and the authorities to do that.
‘Once they’ve come to that conclusion, then we can assess where we’re at and the position that the MP find themselves in.’
Sources insisted Mark Spencer (pictured today) had not been told of any accusation of serious sexual abuse by the former minister
Opposition politicians have condemned the ‘shocking’ decision not to withdraw the whip from the MP. London’s Victims Commissioner, Claire Waxman, accused Boris Johnson of breaking a vow to treat abuse against women ‘seriously’.
However, a senior Tory source told MailOnline that suspending the MP would inevitably lead to them being identified.
It was claimed today the Chief Whip was aware the MP was in a sexual relationship with a woman when she made a complaint about his behaviour – but not that there was an allegation of sexual assault.
Sources insisted that when Mr Spencer spoke to the woman in April he was not told of any accusation of serious sexual abuse by the unnamed former minister.
A spokesman for Mr Spencer said: ‘The Chief Whip takes all allegations of harassment and abuse extremely seriously and has strongly encouraged anybody who has approached him to contact the appropriate authorities, including Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme, which can formally carry out independent and confidential investigations.’
Mr Spencer is understood to be adamant that when he spoke to the woman she did not refer to any ‘serious sexual abuse’.
However, sources confirmed he was aware that the pair had a sexual relationship.
The alleged victim has hit out at the party for not taking swift action, telling The Times: ‘It’s insulting and shows they never cared.’
Women within the Tory ranks are demanding the Party takes action after a former Conservative MP was last week convicted of sexual assault in a separate case.
An ex-Tory minister told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I’m surprised the whip hasn’t been removed considering what happened to Charlie Elphicke. I think the chief has a lot to answer for.’
Opposition politicians have condemned the ‘shocking’ decision not to withdraw the whip from the MP. Pictured, the Houses of Parliament today
The PM told MPs last year women ‘must have the confidence that crimes, domestic violence and sexual abuse, are treated seriously by our law enforcement system’.
Bur Ms Waxman warned on Twitter that ‘not suspending an MP accused of rape while investigations are ongoing conveys a different message’.
Asked about the situation in a round of interviews this morning, business minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News he did not know the details of the investigation.
‘There’s a victim here as well. I think it’s a right for us to wait until the police can do their investigation, and then you’ll be hearing from the chief whip as to what action will be taken,’ he said.
Supporters of the accused MP, who cannot be named, say he ‘totally’ denies the allegations after he was questioned and bailed by police. He has also been given the ‘100 per cent’ backing of his local party.
In a statement issued by the former minister’s local association, its chairman said the MP disputed the allegations.
‘[The MP] has made us aware of allegations made against him,’ they said.
‘He denies these totally. And this association give him our 100 per cent support.
‘Some of the officers of this association have known him for around 25 years and from our knowledge of him in a political and personal capacity we can’t accept that there is any truth whatsoever in these accusations.’
The Metropolitan Police said it had received allegations on Friday of sexual offences and assault relating to four separate incidents at addresses in London, including in Westminster, between July last year and January this year.
A spokesman said: ‘The Met has launched an investigation into the allegations.’
A man in his 50s was arrested on suspicion of rape and was taken into custody at an east London police station, the force added. He was later released on bail to a date in mid-August.